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// by Rieva Lesonsky / May. 31, 2016 0 comments
journalism word cloud

Getting publicity for your small business can seem like a daunting task. Today, print journalism, broadcast journalism and online journalism have created more outlets to target than ever before. However, the results of good PR are so valuable that it's well worth the effort to obtain. A recent survey of journalists asking what they look for when deciding what topics to cover has some useful information that can help you succeed.

First, here's a reality check: The majority of journalists (47.5 percent) receive about 100 business-related emails a day; more than one-third get about 200 emails; and nearly 15 percent get between 250 and 499 business-related emails per day. (That’s me—I'm currently at 300+.). In contrast, the majority of journalists get between one and four pitch phone calls per day. That means while email is definitely the most convenient way for you to send your pitch, it's not necessarily the best way to stand out.

How do journalists find the stories they decide to cover?

Apparently, the way everyone else finds things: by doing Google searches. Google is the top-ranked source for story ideas, cited by 20 percent of journalists in the study. However, pitches from sources came in second, cited by 18 percent of journalists. “Breaking news” ranked third on the list, followed by social media and finally by press releases.

What makes a difference when journalists evaluate you or your business as a potential source or topic?

  • 77 percent want sources that are recognized experts in their field
  • 49.4 percent look for original research they can share
  • 34.5 percent want their sources to have well-developed media materials, such as an online press kit
  • Personal connections, such as developing a professional relationship with a journalist, are also an important factor in who gets written about.

What lessons can you take away from this survey that will help you get publicity for your business? Speaking as a journalist myself, here are my two cents:

  • Get to know the journalist you're pitching. I don't necessarily mean actually getting to know them (although that certainly can't hurt); I mean getting to know what they prefer. For example, I get hundreds of emails a day, but calling me on the phone doesn't make me more likely to write about your business — it just adds to my stress level! On the other hand, I'm sure there are many journalists who like to get phone calls. If you're contacting a journalist, most will include some indication of how they prefer to be contacted on their media website. Don't forget about basic courtesies, such as spelling someone's name correctly and getting the name of their media outlet right.
  • Develop a reputation as an industry expert. Surprisingly, having written a book — often considered the mark of an expert — only matters to about 8 percent of journalists in the study. Instead, you can develop a reputation by speaking at industry events, boosting your profile on social media by sharing and posting useful information for those in your industry, and by doing original research.
  • “Original research” isn't as intimidating as it may sound. You don't have to conduct a scientific experiment: You just have to share some information, such as the results of a survey of your customers or interesting statistics you’ve noted in your business. For example, if you own a children's toy store, surveying your customers about the toys that will be most popular for the upcoming holiday season is “original research” that local journalists will be interested in.
  • Work on your website. Start by boosting your SEO. Not only does search engine optimization help you get customers, it can also help you get the attention of journalists searching on Google. Next, set up an online press kit in the “About” section of your website with all of the information that a journalist might want about you, your business mission, your startup story — whatever makes your business stand out from the pack.

Need help getting your business noticed — by journalists or customers? Talk to the expert mentors at www.score.org

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Bridget Weston Pollack / May. 27, 2016 0 comments
UR Fit Wellness Center

How does an aerospace engineer become a personal trainer? With a lot of practice. Visible results don’t hurt, either.

When he wasn’t in the office, Xavier Ramirez trained for bodybuilding shows. “As coworkers began to see my transformation, they wanted me to train them,” Ramirez recalls. “I guess you can say I was thrown into training after that.”

Paired with his fitness expertise from his time in the United States Air Force, Ramirez noted the additional nutrition guidance he was receiving from his bodybuilding trainers. He started training his own clients on the side, “Until one day I noticed there was not a location that combines the best of wellness and nutrition and fitness together.”

Ramirez opened UR Fit Wellness Center to enhance the overall health and wellness of his clients as they transform their bodies.

A different kind of personal trainer: a mentor

Ramirez learned about SCORE through one of his MBA classes and met with mentor Bob Paino. “I really was seeking general advice,” Ramirez says. “Ever since we met, he has been instrumental in guiding me towards getting the business up and running.”

After a successful launch and a grand opening celebration, Ramirez is looking toward the next phase of his business: growth.

“Be patient and able to change how your business model looks,” Ramirez advises. “From the beginning I had a vision, [and while] the core of the vision stayed the same, everything around the vision has changed dramatically. Be able to adapt and willing to have new experiences.”

Specialization sets this gym apart

Instead of trying to attract thousands of clients, UR Fit caters to 200 members and their individual goals. The facility includes green-conscious, self-powered cardio equipment, an aerobics area and even a kitchen space for cooking classes.

“The biggest challenge has been having the patience [for] building a business,” Ramirez admits. “I already have it envisioned … of our facility being fully staffed and full of clients. The patience I have learned is that not everyone comes in droves.”

But Ramirez has seen UR Fit quickly gain momentum which has calmed his nerves. “I relate it to a flower,” he says. “We have planted the seed of our business and have started to sprout. We just need to give it more water and some sun. Then have us step back and watch it grow!”

Ready to get fit for small business? Find a SCORE mentor to help you make your dreams a reality.

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Gyawu Mahama / May. 26, 2016 0 comments
child entrepreneur

We’ve all heard the stories of kids starting business at young ages. It’s a tempting scenario: Your child develops a passion for something, turns it into a business, and before you know it, they’re supporting you in your not-so-old age.

It’s doesn’t always happen quite that way, but the number of young entrepreneurs is rising, and more of them are more visible than ever. And many ultra-successful business people started young.

Here are some tips if your child wants to start a business:

The idea for the business should be theirs, not yours. Nothing shuts a kid down faster than being told what to do, so let your child come up with their own idea. Then support and encourage them, being the voice of reason when necessary.

  • Stoke their passion. If there’s one thing kids have in abundance, it’s passion, and that’s how most kid-run businesses get started. Encourage their passion, but direct it in such a way that it’s productive.
  • Don’t let them cut corners. Just because your budding entrepreneur is not yet old enough to vote, that doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow the rules. Make sure they get the necessary permits for their business, pay their taxes and protect themselves with small business insurance. But be smart; obviously, there’s a big difference between running a lemonade stand and running a thriving startup. Use common sense to gauge what’s appropriate for your child’s business.
  • Be supportive, but don’t be a crutch. If your child is going to be an entrepreneur, he/she needs to do the work—the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t gloss over the difficult parts, like managing the money or dealing with dissatisfied customers. If you only let your child do the ‘fun’ parts, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise as they move toward managing the business on their own.
  • Let your child make the decisions. You can certainly point out things they should be thinking about, and help them evaluate the pros and cons when they’re faced with a dilemma. But the final decision should be theirs. One caveat: if your money is at stake, you can certainly veto an obviously bad choice in order to protect your investment. This is a business lesson, too.
  • Share your knowledge and experience. If you’re a business owner yourself, tell your child what you learned and what you would do differently if you had it to do over again. Then, stand back, and let them use that information the way they see fit.
  • If it goes well, don’t let them become complacent. Mark Cuban and his wife make an effort to make sure their children are not raised with a sense of entitlement – not an easy task when you’re a billionaire. But Cuban recognizes that being hungry is an important part of starting and running a successful business, and he wants to pass that trait on to his children.

How some of the greatest entrepreneurs got started

Billionaire investor and Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffet made his first investment when he was 11 years old. At age 13, he sold newspapers and published a horse racing tip sheet. He claimed his bicycle as a business expense on his first tax return.

Mark Cuban, technology entrepreneur and billionaire, sold garbage bags at 12 years old, so he could buy a pair of basketball shoes that were too expensive for his parents to justify. When they told him he would have to earn the money for the shoes himself, it’s doubtful they knew what they had started.

Some of today’s young entrepreneurs to watch

These two young entrepreneurs started out on their own, but with encouragement and mentoring from the adults in their lives, they’ve built businesses that are the envy of innovators three times their age.

Mikaila Ulmer started Me & the Bees Lemonade when her parents encouraged her to enter a business contest at age four (four!)  As she was trying to come up with an idea, she got stung by a bee – twice! This got her thinking about bees, and she learned how they affect the ecosystem. Then, her great-grandmother sent her a cookbook which included her recipe for homemade lemonade made with flaxseed. Mikaila got thinking about honey and lemonade, and her recipe for Me & the Bees Lemonade was born. Now 11 years old, Mikaila sells her lemonade through Whole Foods Market and many other locations.

Moziah Bridges started his bow tie business, Mo’s Bows, by trading his handmade bow ties for rocks on the school playground. When he was nine, he realized that cash was more valuable than rocks, and with the help of his seamstress grandmother, he started selling his ties online. Now 14, Moziah is the CEO of Mo’s Bows. He was the fashion correspondent for the 2015 NBA draft and has been to the White House, where he presented President Obama with a custom made ‘Obama blue’ bow tie. 

If you’re the type of parent who believes that their child can change the world, there’s no reason for them to wait until they’re 18 or 21. With some guidance and help from you, they could join the ranks of teenaged—or younger—entrepreneurs. 

Gyawu Mahama
Social Media and Marketing Manager
Hiscox

Gyawu Mahama leads U.S. social media and marketing at international specialist insurer Hiscox. Prior to Hiscox, Gyawu held communications and corporate responsibility roles in the technology industry. Gyawu’s work has been recognized with the Golden Flame Award from the International Association of Business Communicators and Points of Lights’ prestigious Corporate Engagement Award of Excellence. He lives in Atlanta where he’s a sought after expert on social media marketing. 

Hiscox.com | @GyawuTweets | Facebook | More from Gyawu

// by Deluxe / May. 25, 2016 0 comments
nonprofit

Whether you already own your own business, or you’re still working for someone else, starting a nonprofit organization may be on your radar for several reasons:

  • You’ve always wanted to make a difference in your community.
  • Your current business is doing well, and you want to give back.
  • There is a cause close to your heart, and you know you can help.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S., and with corporate social responsibility all the rage today, that number is growing by leaps and bounds. A recent Nielsen survey showed respondents are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that have a positive social and environmental impact.

Starting a nonprofit doesn’t necessarily mean you can quit your day job right away, but like any small business owner, you could eventually earn enough from your nonprofit to justify a full-time salary for you and your staff.

Here are tips on how to start your nonprofit:

Do your homework

As with any business startup, you need to do extensive market research. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a need for your nonprofit? If your nonprofit is not necessarily tied to your location, then research whether the need is regional, nationwide or worldwide.
  • What are the steps involved to getting your nonprofit off the ground? Make a plan to find a mentor or expert in nonprofits, so you don’t miss any paperwork or deadlines.
  • What type of funding will you need to get started, and how will you get the funding? If you already have a business, you might be able to self-fund. If not, you could find a corporate sponsor, look for grants or try crowdfunding.
  • How will you market your nonprofit? Observe what successful nonprofits do and then strategize a print and digital campaign.

Make a plan

Just as with a for-profit business, you’ll need to write a business plan for your nonprofit. In addition to covering the business plan basics — operation, financing, marketing — the business plan for a nonprofit should also focus on how your organization will carry out its mission, how you will measure the results/impact of your efforts on the community, and the role of your governing board. A good business plan will include alternatives for different scenarios so that you can ensure that economic ups and downs don't keep your nonprofit from carrying out its mission.

Be in compliance

To make sure people don’t start nonprofits just to pocket the money themselves and avoid paying taxes, the federal government as well as state governments have strict rules involving the formation and running of nonprofit businesses. Most states require you to set up a governing board and specify the minimum number of board members needed to run the nonprofit. You must file for nonprofit tax-exempt status from the IRS, and then comply with annual reporting and filing regulations to keep your tax-exempt status.

Once you receive tax-exempt status from the federal government, you will probably need to file separately for state and local tax exemptions. Most states and many localities require nonprofits to register with the Charities Registration Bureau of the state or locality where they'll be fundraising. If your nonprofit plans to fundraise actively in several states, you may need to register in each state. Talk to your attorney when deciding on a legal structure for your organization; the most common is a nonprofit corporation.

Watch your nonprofit grow

Making a profit doesn’t have to mean making millions of dollars. In a nonprofit organization, the real “profit” is the social and/or economic impact you make on your target cause. By planning, organizing and operating your nonprofit wisely, you can ensure your organization has the positive effect you dreamed of.

Resources

Deluxe
SCORE Corporate Patron

At Deluxe we strive to be an indispensable partner to the small businesses we serve. Our goal is to provide you with products, services and advice you need to help you achieve success. From personalized printed products to logo design, web services, and search engine marketing that helps your business get found, we work to deliver the most innovative products and services to help you live your passion.
Deluxe.com | Facebook | @DeluxeCorp | More from Deluxe

// by Rieva Lesonsky / May. 24, 2016 0 comments
challenge

What's the hardest part of running your small business? If you're like most entrepreneurs, branding/marketing tops the list, according to a recent survey by The UPS Store released in honor of Small Business Month.

Lack of financial resources and not having enough time to effectively manage the business tied for second place, cited by 23 percent of small business owners (compared to 31 percent who say marketing and branding is their biggest challenge). Eighteen percent say money management/managing financials is their biggest hurdle, and 15 percent struggle with people management.

These results don't surprise me. I've been working with entrepreneurs and writing about small business for more than 30 years, and marketing has consistently been the area that most small business owners say they need help with. More than three-fourths of respondents in The UPS Store survey say their marketing efforts could be expanded. What's the best way to do that?

Today, you have many options for marketing your business without breaking the bank. Here are three areas to focus on:

1. Work on positive word-of-mouth.

Start by networking with other business owners in your community and industry. Two-thirds of survey respondents say strong relationships with other entrepreneurs are important to their success. When you become known and trusted by other small business owners, they're more likely to refer you to prospective clients. You can even develop “co-marketing” relationships with complementary businesses. For instance, a personal trainer could develop a relationship with a nutritionist to refer clients to each other, include links to each other's businesses on their websites, or offer discounts to the other's clients.

2. Think digital.

Today, whether your clients are B2B or B2C, chances are good that they go online first to look at what you sell. That means your business needs a strong online presence starting with a website. A business website doesn't have to be expensive or complicated—depending on your industry, a couple of pages with your basic information, such as your phone number, hours of operation and business address might be all you need. However, to get customers to that website, you'll need to get listed in local search directories, so your business pops up when they're searching for your type of product or service. Finally, make sure your business website is mobile-friendly; building a site that uses responsive design is the easiest way to do this.

3. Think social.

More and more, consumers and B2B buyers alike are finding businesses through social media just as much as through search engines. Find out where your target customers spend most of their time on social media, whether that's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, and create a presence there. By posting and sharing relevant content that helps your customers solve their problems, your business can become known as a valuable resource. Be sure to track the results of your social media campaign—likes and shares are great, but how many actual sales does your social media marketing generate? That's what counts.

Of course, all of this takes time—something that no small business owner ever has enough of. You can't outsource networking, but you can outsource the other steps on this list, from website design and local search listings to social media marketing. More and more one-stop shops exist that can create a business website for you, get your business listed on the appropriate search directories and even manage your social media presence. 1&1, Web.com and GoDaddy are three of the best known. (Disclosure: Web.com is a client of my company.) Prefer working with someone in person? Look for a local website design and marketing business to handle your needs.

The mentors at SCORE can help you with all these aspects of improving your marketing—and even help you get a grip on your financial management, people management and time management. Visit www.SCORE.org to get matched with a mentor today.

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Hal Shelton / May. 23, 2016 0 comments
women shaking hands

Ellen is founder of a law firm serving small and mid-sized businesses, many of which are in the startup stage and do not have the cash to pay her fees. Ellen also has a passion for yoga and teaches at a local studio.

The yoga studio owner wants to retain Ellen for legal advice, but instead of paying cash that she doesn’t have, the owner has offered a small percentage of ownership in the business. Should Ellen take the deal?

Ellen’s options are to forgo the potential business, reduce fees to an amount the owner can afford, or take the business, delaying payment to an unknown date and for an unknown, but potentially larger amount.

If Ellen decides to either decline the business or lower her price, it depends on her need for current cash flow and her time available to take on the work relative to other potential customers who might have the ability to pay.

Before she chooses to trade fees for equity (and become an owner) in the customer’s business, Ellen should explore the following seven issues:

1. What is the business’s financial forecast?

Ellen’s ownership and eventual payout is a long-term decision, so she needs to know if the business is profitable today and its three- to five-year financial profit forecast. Also, is there a well-thought-out business plan to support the projections? Fortunately, Ellen has some experience in the yoga business; if she did not, she should seek expert opinions. She should also look at traditional financial profitability measures as well as cash flow.

2. What is its current financial position?

Ask for the company’s financial information and the owner’s tax returns to understand the studio’s current financial position. If the owner is not forthright in providing this information, it is a red flag. If Ellen goes forward with the deal, there needs to be a clear understanding of her rights to company financial and operating information.

3. How are key decisions made, and how will Ellen’s investment position be protected?

Ellen will be a passive investor/owner in the yoga studio, since she has her own business to run. But she should still review the studio’s governance structure. In particular, she should find out how the owner’s compensation is determined and approved, how she decides to obtain loans or other investors to buy equipment or grow the business, and if the business were to close down, how that decision would be made.

4. How can she “sell,” or monetize, her investment in the future?

She should look at the studio’s operating agreement if it is an LLC, or bylaws, if it is an S or C corp to understand the procedures for selling an ownership interest. The studio may have a 10-year horizon, but if Ellen has a four-year horizon, she needs to determine how she can pull out her investment.

5. What is her legal liability?

If the company has liabilities other than accounts payable, like lawsuits, judgments, fines or tax delinquencies, what responsibility and liability would Ellen have as an owner?

6. What is the company’s valuation?

A company valuation determines the amount of ownership. For example, if the amount of legal services provided is $50,000 and value of the company is set at $500,000, then Ellen will receive a 10 percent ownership in the company. However, if the valuation is $1 million, then Ellen receives a 5 percent stake. Usually, there is a disconnect between the founder’s high valuation and an investor’s, which is much lower. Sometimes, a high valuation is based on a company’s customer list, but in a community with several yoga studios, that is of limited value as potential customers can move freely between studios. If the studio owns assets like the building in which it is located or has an attractive lease, then that can increase valuation.

7. How will her relationship with the owner change?

Ellen now consults with the owner to set her teaching schedule. Going forward, if Ellen becomes an investor/owner in the business, she will have another, different relationship with the majority owner. Ellen should project how the owner will be as a partner and steward of the business; this will be a subjective evaluation based on her interactions with the owner and her assessment of the owner’s operating style and approach.

An alternative to trading services for equity is trading for a loan to be paid with interest at a specific date. The research is much the same with a focus on evaluating if the studio will have the cash at the time to pay off the loan.

While this post has been about an attorney, it also applies to accountants, consultants and others providing a service for a fee. 

Key Lessons:

  1. Trading services for equity in a customer’s business can substitute current pay for future pay at an unknown time and amount.
  2. You will be a small, passive investor, so make sure the governance structure protects your interest.
  3. Determine how you can get out and monetize your investment.
Hal Shelton
Author and Mentor
SCORE

Hal is a SCORE mentor who is passionate about helping small businesses start and grow. He has been a CFO and board member for NYSE/NASDAQ publicly traded companies and nonprofits. He is currently an active investor in early-stage technology companies and is the Amazon bestselling author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan.
secretsofbusinessplans.com​ | Washington D.C. SCOREMore From Hal

// by Gyawu Mahama / May. 19, 2016 0 comments
business woman

 “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes—understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
                                                                                                                                      - 
Ariana Huffington

“I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist."
                                                                                                                                     - 
Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM
 

Having the courage to try, knowing that success is not guaranteed and failures along the way are inevitable, is what sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest of the world. But courage often manifests itself differently for women than for men.

Today, we look at women entrepreneurs and the specific challenges they face.

Closing the credit gap

One of the difficulties women entrepreneurs face is access to credit and capital. In fact, this is often cited as one of the reasons for the disproportionally high failure rate among women-owned businesses. Taking on debt or becoming an equity partner requires courage, and successful women entrepreneurs recognize this.

Women entrepreneurs tend to pay off debt at a faster rate than their male counterparts. The Hiscox American Courage Index, a study of the state of courage in America, found that 38.7% of women entrepreneurs are focused on paying off debt, compared to 25.5% of men. This may be a good thing, but it may also be limiting. Sometimes, we need to summon our courage in order to take advantage of an opportunity for growth.

Despite the challenges facing women entrepreneurs, they are, as a group, more confident in the economy and the stock market than the general population. 21.1% of female business owners felt very confident in a strong economy over the next six months, compared to 6.3% of those women who do not own businesses. And 24.6% of women business owners felt very confident in the stock market.

The confidence women have in economic conditions, combined with their propensity to pay off debt, indicates that it may be more difficult for women entrepreneurs to get a loan or secure venture capital than it is for men. Fortunately, an increasing number of women-owned funding sources may be responsible for narrowing this gap in the near future. Regardless of where you get your funding, you need to be able to show that you’ve thought your business through and planned for its growth. You’ll need a comprehensive business plan with realistic sales projections, solid financial statements and a plan to protect your company and your creditors with the right liability insurance.

The Creative Endeavors Crunch

More women tend to start businesses that are focused on creative endeavors than men. An estimated 21.6% of women business owners identified their businesses as being creative, compared with 6.6% of men. The emotional connection people have to their creative enterprises makes it difficult to summon the courage required to make business decisions from a purely objective point of view.

Women whose businesses revolve around their creative talents also face challenges when it comes to scale. Manufacturing companies can always make more product if the demand is there. But the production of handmade items, artwork and even writing is limited by the ability of the creative force.

Asking For Help

Another challenge for women is accepting help. It’s common for woman to think they can do it all themselves, so delegating is difficult.

The unfortunate part of that is that women love to help one another. The Hot Mammas Project is a digital library of case studies of successful women. The project has evolved from a single business school case study in 1998 to an organization dedicated to increasing the courage and confidence of women in business, including seminars, classes and coaching.

In fact, many businesses started by women revolve around coaching and mentoring others. Up and coming entrepreneurs can call on the women who have come before them to provide guidance and advice, and to share what worked for them and, more importantly, what didn’t.

Identifying Resources for Women Entrepreneurs

Women can take advantage of all of the resources available for entrepreneurs from the SBA and other sources, but there are some resources that are specific to women who are starting their own businesses.

Ladies Who Launch is a website teeming with free advice and resources for women. It includes valuable tips and advice tailored to women and inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs who’ve started successful businesses. There are templates for creating a business plan or marketing plan, articles of incorporation or partnership agreement, financial statements and much more.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation have  launched a $600 million global finance facility for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises. The Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility plans to enable approximately 100,000 women to access capital for their businesses.

Courage is important for everyone

The areas where courage is required may differ between men and women, but the importance of courage is the same across gender lines. Displaying courage means taking a logical look at the potential risks in a given situation and then deciding if the rewards are worth those risks. There are three ways you can deal with risk: avoid it, ignore it, or mitigate it. If you avoid it, you will not follow through on the action that involves taking that risk (i.e., you won’t start the business). If you ignore it, you move forward with your plan and don’t think about the risk (i.e., you open that third donut shop within a two-block radius and hope for the best). If you mitigate it, you recognize the risk and take steps to minimize its impact in the event the worst occurs (i.e., you start your photography business and purchase the appropriate liability and business owner insurance coverage.)

The courage shown by women entrepreneurs can make all the difference in the success of their businesses. Improve your chances by stepping out of your comfort zone and effectively managing risk. 

Gyawu Mahama
Social Media and Marketing Manager
Hiscox

Gyawu Mahama leads U.S. social media and marketing at international specialist insurer Hiscox. Prior to Hiscox, Gyawu held communications and corporate responsibility roles in the technology industry. Gyawu’s work has been recognized with the Golden Flame Award from the International Association of Business Communicators and Points of Lights’ prestigious Corporate Engagement Award of Excellence. He lives in Atlanta where he’s a sought after expert on social media marketing. 

Hiscox.com | @GyawuTweets | Facebook | More from Gyawu

// by Deluxe / May. 18, 2016 0 comments
dog grooming

Americans love their pets which has translated into a growing business trend over the past decade. Last year, Americans spent $61 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), and the industry is expected to reach $91.72 billion by 2019, as reported by Packaged Facts.

79.7 million U.S. households own a pet, including 71 percent of Generation X and 65 percent of Millennials. Overall, there are 85.8 million cats, 77.8 million dogs, 14.3 million birds and 9.3 million reptiles nationwide. High-income households are a profitable demographic for pet-related businesses; Packaged Facts says three-fifths of pet spending comes from upscale pet owners, who prefer premium products, such as organic and natural pet foods.

Here are 7 hot pet business ideas to get you started on a pet business of your own.

1. Pet food and treats

A massive recall of pet food made in China in 2012 and 2013 has made pet owners more willing to spend on premium pet foods—some $9.5 billion annually on dog food and $4.9 billion on cat food, according to a Nielsen/Harris Poll. Pet owners want "human grade" pet food, including pet energy bars, pet food incorporating superfruits and pet food for special diets. For example, grain-free, gluten-free or other limited-ingredient diets are popular for pets with food allergies.

Other growth areas include food for senior pets (about 40 percent of pet owners have a dog or cat in the senior age bracket) and diet pet food (more than half of dogs and nearly 60 percent of cats are overweight). Concern about pet health is also sparking growth in nutritional supplements for pets, including glucosamine and Omega 3’s.

Don't forget about pet treats. Dog treats account for $2.6 billion in annual sales, and cat treats $476 million, Nielsen reports. In upscale areas, some entrepreneurs are finding success by opening bakeries that specialize in pet treats.

2. Pet products and accessories

The possibilities for pet products and accessories are endless, from basics like leashes, pet beds and collars to discretionary products like pet clothing, pet toys and designer pet furniture. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. pet owners buy holiday gifts for their pets, and 45 percent purchase pet birthday presents, Nielsen says. Millennials, in particular, like to buy clothing for their animals. Specializing in clothing for particular breeds, such as English bulldogs or Chihuahuas, can help you find your niche.

The growing popularity of small dogs has created opportunity for products tailored to tiny breeds. Since small dogs are typically kept indoors, their owners need pet training, odor prevention/removal and cleanup products, just like cat owners do. There's also a demand for attractive pet beds, pet furniture, dog crates and litter boxes that fit in with home decor.

Senior pets provide a growth area, too: Products to help them get around more easily, such as steps and ramps, or make them more comfortable, such as orthopedic beds, are in demand.

3. Pet grooming services

Americans spend some $166 million annually on pet grooming, according to Nielsen, and this industry offers several opportunities for local entrepreneurs. You can either rent a storefront location or set up a mobile van and visit clients in their homes. Another option is a self-serve dog wash that lets customers wash their pets without making a mess at home.

4. Dog day care

Doting dog owners worry that animals left home alone all day will get lonely (or destroy the house), creating demand for dog day care centers. At these locations, dogs can socialize and play under your watchful eye. Set up pet-cams so owners can watch their pets remotely and ease their minds. You can also promote your service as a way to keep dogs at a healthy weight.

5. Pet sitting or at-home boarding service

Pet sitting is a low-cost startup, since you don't even need a location — you watch pets in their own homes when their owners are out of town. Offer to pet-sit for friends and acquaintances; then build your clientele from referrals. You can also start a pet boarding service keeping animals at your home, although this is more capital-intensive and requires a fairly large property.

6. Dog walking service

Dogs need exercise, and sometimes their owners don't have the time or ability to provide it. Offer your services as a dog walker, and both you and the animals will get a workout. You can market your business by word-of-mouth and through co-marketing with related businesses, such as groomers, dog day care and pet stores.

7. Pet portrait painter/photographer

Pet lovers are willing to pay to have their furry friends immortalized on film or canvas. If you’re artistic, start a portraiture business painting pets from photos that you either take yourself or have customers send you. If photography is your preference and you are good with animals, start a business taking pet portraits. A photo shoot in the animal’s home will generally get the best results, so you don't even need a studio to get started.

Resources

Organizations:
Pet Industry Distributors Association
American Association of Pet Products
World Pet Association
International Boarding and Pet Services Association

Publications:
Petfood Industry
Pet Business
Pet Age

Deluxe
SCORE Corporate Patron

At Deluxe we strive to be an indispensable partner to the small businesses we serve. Our goal is to provide you with products, services and advice you need to help you achieve success. From personalized printed products to logo design, web services, and search engine marketing that helps your business get found, we work to deliver the most innovative products and services to help you live your passion.
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// by Rieva Lesonsky / May. 17, 2016 0 comments
definition of risk

Whether you’re just starting your new business, or have been up and running for a while, protecting the business you worked so hard to build is a critical step. Unfortunately, it's one that many entrepreneurs neglect in the rush of launching a startup and operating day-to-day.

Here are seven steps you can take now to protect your small business.

1. Choose the right form of business.

Operating as a sole proprietorship — the default business structure for a one-person business — may be easy, but it's not necessarily the best choice to protect your business. For one thing, the sole proprietorship structure doesn’t protect your personal assets. That means if a customer decides to sue you or a vendor demands payment that your business can’t afford, your savings, home and other assets could be fair game.

2. Hire an attorney.

You may not need to use a lawyer that often, but when you need one, you need one fast. Ask other entrepreneurs, business colleagues and friends for recommendations to attorneys who are familiar with small business issues. Take the time to compare attorneys by scheduling an interview with each before you hire them. Discuss payment options — most attorneys have affordable solutions for even the smallest business.

3. Find an accountant.

Even if you plan on doing the bookkeeping yourself, a good accountant is worth the price. Who has time to keep up to date on tax law changes? You sure don’t—but accountants do. Not only can they save you money on your taxes, they can also provide valuable advice on how to structure your business, the best way to finance expansion, and how much to pay yourself. At my company, we consult our accountant before making any big decision.

4. Be smart about new customers.

Before taking on a new B2B customer, always conduct a credit check. This helps protect you against unpaid invoices. Never do business without a contract — no matter how confident you are in the customer's word. If something goes wrong, a written contract may be the only thing that ensures you get paid for your hard work.

5. Buy business insurance.

Most businesses need general liability insurance, and if you provide advice or professional services to customers, you may also need professional liability insurance, also known as E&O (errors and omissions) coverage. Depending on which state you operate in, you may be required to have workers’ compensation insurance. Other insurance products to consider include key man insurance on your life and the life of other key employees, business interruption insurance (which protects your income if your business has to shut down due to a disaster) and cyberinsurance.

6. Protect your employees.

Disaster can strike any time, so it's important to have a disaster plan for what you will do in case of emergency to protect your business. Create a plan and assign responsibilities for how to get employees and customers out of the building safely, what to do if a disaster keeps you and employees from getting to your business, and how you will keep running even if you can't get to your physical location. Learn more about creating an emergency disaster plan.

7. Protect your business data.

Back up your company data and documents with a cloud storage and sharing solution so you can access files anywhere. When your information is stored in the cloud, you don't have to worry about a crashed hard drive or fire on your premises wiping out precious data. To protect your business from cyber crime and hackers, install appropriate firewalls and, more importantly, train your employees in cyber security measures, such as creating strong passwords.

Your SCORE mentor can help you determine additional ways to protect your business. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor today. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
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// by Jeanne Rossomme / May. 16, 2016 0 comments
What's your story?

Think about the last social or business gathering you attended.  What stands out in your mind?  Likely, it was a story relayed by someone you met or knew.  Stories are deeply tied to the way we capture information, attach meaning and retain data. Bottom line is stories capture attention and foster trust. 

  • Stories are memorable.  Many studies have shown a high correlation between narrativity (or story versus straight, fact-based) and the amount of information recalled.
  • Stories tie into emotions. We remember what we feel. 
  • Stories help rationalize.  Even though intellectually we may know a story is a specific case of one, we feel that a story rings true, especially if we can see ourselves in the characters.
  • Stories create connection.  A story well-told connects the teller and listener, especially if told in a personal, engaging way.

So how do you assemble and use your stories for your small business marketing?

Reach out to positive, valued partners and customers.

Ask them to think of a strong, vivid image or situation where we really helped you.  Go with your first impression, and

Ask your employees for their stories too.

Have them think of a specific instance of “customer delight”.  (You can really make things easy for everyone by recording the audio or video of the raw response.)

Record your own “origin story”.  

Why did you start the company or create the product?  What was your vision?  What problem were you trying to solve?  What obstacles did you face, and what drove you to keep moving forward?

Hire a writer.

You can also ask someone on your team to gather these raw stories, and assemble them into a library.  Add details about the characters such as gender, age, background.  Add emotion or how it felt throughout the process.  Add credibility through specific details and numbers.  Add an element of surprise or the unexpected (which also helps drawn in the listener and improve memorability).

Assemble a library. 

Have at least one story per customer segment in addition to your origin story.

Stories can be used in many ways:

  • On your website as quick credibility boosters.  Stories can be used as quick quotes, client testimonials or longer case studies.  Photos are a plus, as prospects are drawn to “look-alike” people and problems.
  • At networking events.  Having a few interesting stories burned into memory is a great way to answer that question, “So what does your company do?”.
  • On social media.  After polishing up your stories, ask your prospects and partners to post referrals on LinkedIn, Yelp or other rating sites.

 

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne