Tag Archive: starting_a_new_business

8 Tips for Starting A Business

Seniors start more businesses than people under the age of 30! I know, I was surprised, too. It may surprise you even more that the ones started by seniors have a greater chance of success than those started by the young. These two facts taken together should show you that you are never too old to start your own business, and should also suggest that there may be more opportunities for seniors looking to fund a new business.


Here then are 6 tips to help you get started:


1. Pick something you are passionate about. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon of a product or service that is supposed to be “the next big thing,” instead, pick something you are passionate about. A new business will take a lot of time if you do it right, and you want to spend that time doing something you love.



It is also true that if you are passionate about something and you know that area well, then that experience will be a big leg up. It is also a major reason why senior entrepreneurs are so successful.


2. Don’t take a big risk when funding the business: When you are older, you have less time to make up for financial mistakes. Because a startup is, of course, somewhat risky, one way to hedge against that risk is by being prudent where



So, for instance, don’t look to take out a second mortgage on your home to finance your venture, and you shouldn’t tap into your retirement account. Instead, consider these options:

  • Talk to your state Department of Commerce and see what grants and loans may be available to senior entrepreneurs; you might be surprised.
  • Also, consider crowd funding sites like Kickstarter. If you have a unique idea, getting friends, family and the public to fund it is a more preferable way to go.

3. Come up with a strategy and/or business plan: Even if your plan isn’t to become a major global corporation, you need to treat your business venture as a serious proposition. This means that you need to sit and come up with a plan and a strategy. Your business plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, but you do need to have a strategy for how you plan on getting from A to B to C.


Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


4.  Learn to love the Internet and social media. Like it or not, the internet and social media networks have become the place for word of mouth marketing and business promotion. Forget placing ads in print magazines or making flyers, because that is yesterday’s news. You will get a far better response using, for instance, a Google or Facebook ad. So, take some courses online or at your local community college, and research just what is available to you in internet marketing.


5. Embrace the mobile revolution. I was recently at an Internet marketing event and they said that 60% of all email is now read on a mobile device. Similarly, almost half of all searches now are done on a mobile device. Whatever business you start must be searchable and findable by a mobile device.

Mobile is not only the future, it’s also the present.


6. Become a lifelong learner. One of my favorite business authors (Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job), says that one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is that you have to become a lifelong learner. If you develop the habit of always learning about business and what is coming down the pike, you will be well prepared to serve your customers.


The bottom line is that as a senior, you have valuable experience that translates well into the world of entrepreneurship. Use it wisely.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.


You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


6 Great Apps for Small Businesses

6 Great Apps for Small Businesses

The rise of mobile has certainly changed the face of business as we know it, and mostly for the better. Now that pretty much everyone has a smartphone, it is important that those phones are equipped with the right tools to keep up with the hectic life of a business professional. Having to put something off until you can get back to the office or hotel room could cost time, money, and even sales. That makes having everything you need in one mobile package a smart choice.


Take a look at these five apps that will add functionality to your phone – and life – with ease:


Audio Memos


Audio Memos is a great app that lets you record audio quickly and easily, whether you’re leaving yourself a reminder or recording a meeting or lecture.Lifehacker called it “the best voice recording app,” and it’s easy to see why – it’s simple, easy to use, and incredibly useful.


The app can even be set to start recording when it hears voices, so you can avoid long silences at the beginning of your recordings. Use the various extensions to trim your recordings, compress them for email, and upload everything to Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Google Drive, or simply send messages via email.




What do you do with those 20 or 50-odd, assorted business cards you’ve collected after you leave the conference? Most of us do a quick sort, and even then, the ones we keep often just get tucked away. Is there a better way to organize them? You bet.


With CardMunch, you just snap a picture of a business card and the app does the rest. It automatically converts the text on the business card into an address book contact using your mobile phone’s contact system. Snap a picture, ditch the card. Additionally, since CardMunch is owned by LinkedIn, you can take that contact information and add the person as a connection on LinkedIn, making it easy to view even more info through their profile right away.





MightyMeeting is a powerful tool that ensures you are never unprepared for a meeting. You can:


  • Store PowerPoint presentations and PDF files and share them any way you want to.
  • Set up online meetings that anyone can connect to using their phone, tablet, or computer.
  • Download documents to your device before you head out to a spot where you know that you are going to be without an internet connection, and use Nearcast to share them over Bluetooth between any iOS devices in the room.
  • You can even create an interactive whiteboard that everyone can use to share ideas.




I travel a lot, giving speeches and what not, and TripIt is my go-to travel app. Here’s how it works: with each travel reservation you make – car rental, flight, hotel, etc– you simply forward the confirmation to TripIt and the site combines them all and sends you back a master calendar/confirmation/itinerary. The elegant itinerary then syncs with Apple and Google Calendars. It also contains weather info for where you are going, as well as maps and directions for each stop on your travels. TripIt Pro adds real-time flight information, a flight finder, and more to an already robust app.



This is another of my favorite business apps. Hightail is a great way to share large files that might otherwise be practically impossible to send. The app lets you send files up to 2GB instantly from your computer or mobile device, and store an unlimited amount of files online. Such large attachments usually upset regular email servers.


At Hightail.com (formerly YouSendIt), you can see who has downloaded your files, and even control who can and can’t make changes to those files. Finally, you can also sign documents through Hightail and return them immediately, making sure that contracts, mocks, and other documents take as little time as possible to get approved.


These apps help make your phone or tablet the only device you need to get everything done. Do you have an app you can’t live without? Share it with us.

More apps for business http://www.businessinsider.com/50-best-business-apps-2013-8?op=1

Five Steps to Business Credit

 Operating without loans can have significant impacts on your cash flow and working capital and does nothing extra to build your business credit. Five Steps to Business Credit

Maintaining good business credit is essential, as a bad credit rating may severely hinder your business growth and expansion. Without good business credit, banks can be less likely to accept your loan applications. Operating without loans can have significant impacts on your cash flow and working capital and does nothing extra to build your business credit.


In addition, if you skirt your financial responsibilities, it’s unlikely that suppliers will extend your business a trade or credit account. That means that you may lose the ability to leverage the 30-, 60-, and 90-day terms of invoices as short-term loans. In addition, many businesses enjoy discounts provided by suppliers to encourage prompt payment; cash customers usually do not get such discounts.


If your business does not have good credit, you can take steps to repair it. The first step to building your business credit is to contact your creditors to set up payment schedules. Such schedules should be reasonable and fair to both your business and the creditor. If you have some history of paying bills promptly, you may find that creditors are willing to set up alternative payment schedules. In addition, successful completion of a payment schedule often leads to a continuing relationship between businesses and creditors.


Late payments or unpaid invoices can often be traced back to housekeeping or paperwork issues rather than cash flow problems. Even these types of mistakes can affect your business credit.

To determine the root cause of the problems ask yourself:

  • Are your creditors sending invoices to the correct address and person?
  • Are your payment checks being sent to and received by the correct department and person?
  • Are all parties clear on when payments must be made?


Additionally, listed below are steps you can take to improve your business’s creditworthiness:

  • Always pay on time. The ability to repay loans promptly has a great impact on business credit scores. You should endeavor to always pay within the terms you have with your suppliers. On-time payments are the most direct way to improve a business credit rating.
  • Pay your biggest bills first. Some business credit scores are dollar weighted, such as the PAYDEX ® Score. Therefore, if you are consistently paying all of your smaller bills but neglecting your largest, your Paydex score can suffer.
  • If timely payments to suppliers and lenders are not included in your business credit profile, your business may not get the credit it deserves for paying your bills on time. You should monitor your business credit profile at least twice per year to ensure that vendor payment relationships are included.
  • Stay on top of your business credit profile. You must ensure that your business credit profile information is complete and accurate. Address any inaccuracies immediately. Certain business credit companies offer customer services and online tools that can help you update and manage such details.
  • Contribute to your company’s credit profile. You can communicate to the credit bureaus as well. The more information you give to credit bureaus like D&B, the more robust your business credit profile will be. In addition, try to choose suppliers and vendors that report their experiences to credit bureaus, which can also boost your profile.

Many businesses are feeling the pressure of tightened credit requirements. However, by carefully planning and executing your plan, you can help fix and improve your business credit.

Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital FundingUnderstanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding

Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding. Before taking on venture capital, entrepreneurs must ask themselves a fundamental question – “Do you want to be rich or be king?” As Harvard Business School Professor Noam Wasserman explains, it’s difficult for founders to maintain control over their businesses once they take on outside investors. However, without them, such businesses like Twitter and Facebook would likely have never have taken off. For those entrepreneurs who have developed a product with a large untapped market and a potential for rapid, high growth, venture capital (VC) funding makes sense if you’re willing to give up some control and most likely sell your business at the end of the investment period, or fund life-cycle (i.e. when the fund becomes due). However, if you would like to build a generational business, an angel investor may offer more favorable terms that will allow you to receive some equity while maintaining a degree of control.


Looking for that big return

“A VC firm does not invest in a business,” explains investment banker Jeff Koons of San Francisco-based Vista Point Advisors. Instead, it invests in a company that will sell for a lot more than it’s worth at the time of the initial investment. And such firms are looking for a big return (up to 20 times the initial investment) in a relatively short amount of time (3 to 10 years, depending on the fund life-cycle). “If your business is growing just 20 to 30 percent per year, VC funding is not for you,” notes Koons. Focusing primarily on the tech sector, Vista Point acts as a broker to bootstrapped entrepreneurs entering the VC world for the first time. “We help them think through the process from valuation to exit,” notes Koons.


Defending your interests 

Vista Point vets various VC firms for the best valuation and possible outcome for the entrepreneur. Unlike others in their field, Vista Point only works on the “sell side,” meaning their sole clients are entrepreneurs. They do not work with VC firms on other deals. “VC firms sometimes look for a break in the negotiations on these smaller deals for the promise of future work for the investment bank on more lucrative deals down the road,” cautions Koons. So a good rule of thumb is to ask any investment brokers if they work on the “buy side,” with VC firms, as well.


Having sound advice makes all the difference when entering the complex world of equity financing. Joshua Mag, CEO of SquareHook, a content management system provider, consulted a former professor who is an operating partner at a large VC firm before taking on equity from an angel investor in June 2012. “Potential investors want to know what market you’re targeting and its size,” notes Mag. “They’re not going to invest in something that doesn’t produce a large return, so there needs to be a big potential market for your product.” The angel investment allowed Mag to quit his full-time job to focus exclusively on building his business, which included hiring a few employees and seeking development assistance. “My decision to take on capital was a choice of acceleration,” explains Mag. “Had I not taken on the capital, this would have been a slower task.”


Equity comes at a price

Mag gave up 20 percent of equity of his company in exchange for the angel investment; however, a VC investor typically wants at least 20 percent ownership in addition to a board seat and the ultimate sale or IPO of your company upon exit. Nevertheless, how much ownership an entrepreneur gives up, whether to a VC or angel investor, is largely determined by the amount of equity the entrepreneur needs, the valuation of the business, and whether it’s the first, second, or third round of investment.


Aaron Skonnard, CEO of Layton, Utah-based Pluralsight, grew his company’s online training platform for software developers organically for about a decade before taking $27.5 million in Series A funding in 2012. “We saw periodic interest over the years from investors,” notes Skonnard. “But we thought it was too risky to give up too much control in case we needed to change direction.” It was only when Skonnard and his partners felt they had a solid business model and were set to enter a high-growth mode that they decided to take on VC funding

Shop around

“It wasn’t so much about the money as forging those strategic relationships,” Skonnard points out. “Once we decided, then it became a financial exercise –– how much do we take, how much do we want to sell, and who’s the right partner to go with.” Skonnard and his partners met with five or six VC firms several times before they decided on one they believed would add the most value to their business. “It was our comfort level with the people and personalities that drove our decision more than the financial metrics,” explains Skonnard. “Make sure you’re happy with the people that will be on your board of directors.”


Investors provide more than just cash

While the cash infusion helps grow your company, partnering with a VC firms also gives you access to new players in your industry, which in turn helps attract the top talent and increase your market presence. Pluralsight’s traditional model had been to work directly with content producers to build its online training library. But with the funding, it was able to finance the purchase of two online training companies, which doubled its content library in a matter of months. “The Series A really unlocked our ability to make those acquisitions,” Skonnard points out. “We would have never been able to consider that without such funding.”


Beyond their connections in financial and sector-specific industries, some VC investors have an entrepreneurial background as well. Brendan Anderson bought his first business in 1995 and has helped manage and invest in many more since then. In 2006, he co-founded Cleveland, Ohio-based Evolution Capital, which invests in $5- to $6-million companies that have at least $500,000 in free cash flow. “We are point-in-time investors looking for entrepreneurs/founders with a vision creating something compelling in the market,” explains Anderson. He and his partners then work with these entrepreneurs to implement the steps needed for growth.


These include getting the entepreneurs’ financials in order to develop a plan for growth, which in turn enables these businesses to attract the best people. Next is transparency, making sure the entrepreneur communicates his vision and shares day-to-day operational data with employees. Finally, holding the entrepreneur and employees accountable for tasks that will move their company forward. “Once these best practices are implemented, they’re happy with the results,” Anderson points out. “But the process of doing it is usually painful.”


“The founder/entrepreneur still owns a major piece of the business even after we invest,” Anderson points out. However, Evolution Capital typically controls the majority interest (more than 50%) and maintains the right to change management and control their exit (with a typical investment ranging from 3-7 years). “We want to build businesses that continue to grow long after our ownership,” he says.


Understanding terms, conditions, and valuation

If you’re considering taking on equity, it’s critical to understand the terms and conditions of any investment agreement. Whether the entrepreneur maintains some control is largely determined by how the deal is structured. Mag decided to go with an angel investor, who was looking for a longer investment with annual dividends rather than a large payout at the end of a VC fund life-cycle. “Taking on VC means you need to have an exit strategy: IPO, sell, or dividends,” notes Mag. “Most VCs want a full exit to collect on their return within a period that is reasonable.”

And that’s largely determined by when a business becomes part of the fund. “You want to be invested as soon as possible in the life of the fund,” explains Koons. “If there’s only two years left before the VC firm needs to return capital to their limited partners (i.e. investment occurs in year five of a seven year fund), a company could be sold for a loss or spun out even if it’s achieving its growth projections.” Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding


Typically, investors are looking for preferred terms that will position them better than other parties (e.g. paid first upon exit, right of first refusal, put option, liquidation preference). Pluralsight has a minority interest deal with their VC investment firm, which has allowed Skonnard and his partners to only give up two seats on their seven-seat board. “The founders still control the board and the ultimate direction of our strategy,” notes Skonnard. “While we have a very healthy relationship with our new board members, we didn’t want to give up too much control.” Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding


It’s also important to understand valuation, as you need to know what your company is worth in order to negotiate the best terms. “One way to valuate your business is to look at your competitors to see what they sold for upon exit,” explains Mag. There are a number of public sources and tools that list industry comparables. This will also help figure out how much equity you’ll need to put into your business to achieve your growth plans. “That investment defines what your business will be valued at,” explains Mag. “By taking on more than you need, your business is likely losing equity unnecessarily.” Understanding its advantages and disadvantages of Venture Capital Funding


How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan

How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business LoanHow Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan

It’s a question that besets many small business owners when applying for business loans: how much should I ask for? More so than deciding on which lender to approach, not having a sound estimate of how much capital you need to borrow could lead to cash flow problems—which could lead to your business shutting down. How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan

How then can small business owners determine how much financing they need when approaching lenders? What factors should they take into account when calculating the ideal sum of their business loan?

Be clear on the reason for the loan

Are you launching a startup? Or do you need the loan as additional working capital to make improvements in your business? Answering yes to either question is critical when deciding on how much you need.

Denise Beeson, a small business-funding consultant who previously lent her services to a local SBA-administered Small Business Development Center, a provider of mostly free resources and training to small business entrepreneurs, in Santa Rosa, California, always asks her small business clients the previous questions whenever they come to her about wanting to apply for loans. For those with startups, she does issue a caveat: “If this is a start-up, I remind them that an SBA preferred lender does not fund startups,” says Beeson “We then discuss where they may find funding, such as peer-to-peer lending options, tapping into their personal resources, or asking family and friends.”

If the small business owner is seeking to buy a business from another, Beeson notes that the seller may fund the loan. How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan


Also, if the small business owner is seeking working capital for myriad reasons, which might include increasing the marketing budget, making renovations, or paying off debt, Beeson says she will ask clients if they can produce documentation verifying that the debt was accrued as a result of the business.


Without providing the necessary paper trail needed to accompany a loan application, small business owners could hurt their chances of getting financing from a lender, insists Beeson. To prove her point, she offers the following anecdote:


“Recently a restaurant client was interested in an SBA loan to consolidate debt based on improvements to the premises,” she recalls. “They had almost $100,000 in debt including credit card debt that was claimed as accumulated to the business during the recession. However, when we looked at the statements, the entries were not clear when and what had been done. In addition they could not produce any paid invoices from contractors or suppliers linked to the credit card statements. Unfortunately, we could not move forward because the borrower could not provide the needed documentation to the preferred SBA lender.” How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan

Consult trusted financial professionals

If you are unsure or confused about how much you should ask for when applying for a business loan, it might behoove you to visit a financial expert such as a reliable bookkeeper or a CPA that regularly deals with small business clients. By reviewing your financials, he or she can then approximate how much financing you will need, taking into account existing debt obligations and operating revenue. And a word of caution: don’t be lax or lazy when it comes to understanding your financials. Sloppy bookkeeping or a lack of knowledge about your books or tax returns will prevent you from acquiring a loan.

Take into account your other non-related business expenses

To determine how much you’ll be able to repay and the length of the loan’s duration, small business owners need to do a cash flow analysis of all their expenses, including mortgage payments or auto loan payments. By doing so, a business owner will be able to develop a more viable estimate of how much they’ll need to borrow from a lender.


Rohit Arora, CEO of the six-year-old Biz2Credit.com, feels this is an imperative step for all small business owners to take when deciding on how much of a loan they should apply for.


“A lot of business owners don’t take [their miscellaneous non-business expenses into account when deciding how much money they should borrow,” he says. “Everything boils down to your repayment capacity. So if you feel that you can borrow some money and there’s some good opportunity that will help you make money off it, that’s good. But that calculation is not a certainty.” How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan

Carefully consider payment terms

After you analyze your financial situation, both on a personal and business level, you will also need to decide on how long you want to pay off your loan. By following this best practice, you will be able to produce a rational figure as opposed to an amount that you will never be able to discharge in light of your finances and debts.

Arora agrees, offering a hypothetical scenario: “Let’s say a business owner is borrowing $100,000 and they have to pay back everything in one year,” he explains. “Then the amount of repayment they have to make in terms of speed is pretty steep. Typically for small businesses, the cash flow is their bloodline.”

Similarly, Arora says small business owners need to exercise extreme caution, particularly if they’re planning on borrowing from alternative lenders. “A lot of times they want their money back pretty quickly,” he warns.

Know the lender

When figuring out how much money you need to borrow, it’s vital that you research your lending options. Which banks or lenders are amenable to small business owners in your sector? Just conjuring up a random number for a loan will not help you if the lender is not open to your industry, says Beeson, who advises business owners to also explore nontraditional lending options.

If you need to figure out how much of a business loan you should ask for, you will need to know offhand all of your business and non-business expenses. Not only is this information essential for maintaining good credit—a prerequisite for getting a loan—but it will help you come up with a realistic number that will allow you to comfortably fulfill repayment terms and not disrupt your cash flow. How Much To Ask When Applying For A Small Business Loan

Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small BusinessOpening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

While pop-up stores—businesses that set up or occupy a retail space from a few days to a few months—exist only temporarily, the trend may be here to stay. A 2011 report from Specialty Retail Report showed that this segment of the market grew by over 14 percent in just six months. It’s not surprising, given the allure of short-term leases and the variety of retail settings. Although the start-up costs can be high in some cases—which is why big businesses have taken the lead in this tactic—many small business owners might finally find the return on investment is worth the expense. Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Operate professionally

Pop-up retail stores can be set up to test new products, sell off excess inventory, ignite a quick spike in sales, and spread awareness of a small business. A pop-up store may be short-term, but the regular protocols of business still apply.


“Temporary doesn’t mean unprofessional. Temporary doesn’t mean bootstrapping. You really have to put the effort in to make sure the consumer experience is what they are expecting,” says Christina Norsig, CEO of PopUpInsider, the first online national marketplace for temporary spaces, and author of Pop-Up Retail.


Before founding PopUpInsider in 2009, Norsig opened eight of her own pop-up stores in New York City, the largest one in a storefront across the street from Macy’s that was formerly a Payless shoe store. The experience allowed her to see which items were popular, work out a pricing structure, and even figure out the most productive hours of operation. “When I had the store across from Macy’s, [peak traffic] was early in the morning to late in the afternoon,” Norsig says. “But for my store in Soho, there was no need to show up before twelve because no one was there.”


Some customers may take longer to feel comfortable in or trusting of a temporary pop-up store. Having a well-trained sales team who can communicate your business’s message and build excitement for your products can bridge the gap. Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Inevitably, even well-planned stores will encounter unexpected problems. For example, landlords will often give priority attention to businesses with long-term leases. In Norsig’s store on 34th Street, she didn’t anticipate the heavy volume of product she needed and struggled to get containers in. “I was sharing the dock time with stores that were there all year round, so they got priority on the loading dock,” she says.


Norsig often finds that some small businesses don’t even have a defined business plan yet before they ask her to look for space. Rather than inundate landlords with requests for available listings, Norsig questions the small business owner to make sure their idea is complete. “That’s not to say that you have to have a warehouse stocked with merchandise,” Norsig says, “but you have to be ready to pull the trigger and open up a store and be ready to go.”


Personalize the experience

Pop-up stores offer small businesses great flexibility in setting up a space quickly, whether it’s a kiosk, mobile store, store within a store, or its own free-standing retail space. Whatever space you use, experts say focusing on the customer experience is key.


“If you can go out and demonstrate to the customer how they can use the product, how it will benefit them in their life, and how they will be impacted from their purchase, that is how these pop-ups can be very successful,” says Jennifer Davis, director of client services for Medallion Retail, a New York-based agency that specializes in retail marketing.


Every type of business is suitable for a pop-up retail store, according to Davis. For small start-ups that don’t have any retail experience, a pop-up can give them the chance to try something new in the marketplace efficiently. Pop-ups can sometimes break the patterns of customers who never stray far from their usual shopping neighborhoods if the incentive is there. “You need to give them a reason to come to your shop,” Davis says. “You need to personalize the experience for them. That’s really what retail is about these days.” For example, the type of fixtures and store signage in a pop-up will contribute to the overall customer experience.


Small business owners also need to figure out what they can afford to pay. While rents vary because of neighborhood and length of lease, Davis explains that the flexibility of pop-ups can fit almost any budget. “You could do something as simple as taking your product and setting it up at a park or a playground or something much more mobile,” she says. “Or you can have four walls within a space. Regardless of your budget, there is a way to get your brand and your product to the consumer in really unexpected, unconventional ways. It allows the customer to have a sense of discovery and make a connection.”


An integrated strategy

In addition to the growth of pop-up stores themselves, companies that specialize in finding space seem to be on the rise, too. Case in point: Republic Spaces, a New York-based agency that launched in early 2013. While they concentrate primarily on finding space in the metro New York City area, they have plans to expand their coverage to include Los Angeles next, then major European cities.

For many businesses with a wholly online presence, having a pop-up store has become part of their overall strategy. “For the brand to get to the next stage, they need to be offline in certain respects,” says Republic Spaces’ founder, Angela Wang. “Designers offline get to connect with new customers, test different markets, and create a tactile experience that’s a lot more engaging for everyone.” Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Obviously, the location of a pop-up is critical, but small businesses also need to market their new location ahead of time to build awareness. Wang agrees with Norsig and Davis that pop-ups that give customers a good in-store experience can propel sales.


While Republic Spaces is still a relatively new company, they seem to have discovered at least one truth about pop-up stores. “A lot of brands are formed pretty fast online these days,” Wang says, “but to be successful, you need a very integrated offline/online experience.” Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!

Turning Down a Customer When Is It Smart!Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!

by Erin McDermott.


Yoga is supposed to be an escape to mindfulness and physical rejuvenation.


But running a yoga studio is like any business, and Patrice Simon has had to refuse some customers. Once, she even had to summon police to her busy Costa Mesa, California, spot, Bikram Yoga Studio, when a student became alarmingly verbally abusive.


“It’s been a lesson in psychology for me. There are individuals who intentionally raise their voice at the desk or become insulting—and they do it so an audience can hear them,” explains Simon “I don’t let it get that far. I say, ‘You need to leave, and now.’ I get a vibe from dealing with people at this point. This individual went far over the line.” Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes it’s best to turn down a customer. Many business owners say it’s rarely as straightforward as encountering an unruly person at the other side of the counter. It could be that the limits of your own enterprise are overstretched, or their deadline is impossible to meet. Mostly, it’s just one of those things that only your gut can tell you. Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


Everyone’s in business to make money, but when are those dollars just not worth it? Here are four situations that small business owners say they’ve encountered on the road to saying “no thanks” to new customers. Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


1)  It’s never going to be profitable


Some projects require an investment to keep relationships with big potential growing. And there are times when you have to hold your nose and say yes in order to keep your doors open. But those numbers need to add up somewhere on the horizon.


Michael Bremmer is founder and CEO of TelecomQuotes.com, a Marino Valley, California telecommunications-solutions provider for small and midsize businesses. He says 20 years of trial and error have led him to ask three questions of himself for any new customer: 1) What’s his gut feeling about the individual or business? (“Every time I’ve ignored my gut, I’ve paid the price,” he says.) 2) How reasonable are their requests? and 3) Is the amount of profit worth the time and effort?  “Even if you’re struggling to start your business, you have to choose so wisely because your time is your most valuable asset,” Bremmer says. Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


For example, Bremmer has had to send some customers to competitors or outright “fire” others. He says he recently had to cut off a longtime family friend who became unreasonable about pricing. He struggled with the decision because he could see how stress had made her irrational, but “the client who keeps you awake at 3 a.m.—that’s the one you’ve got to fire.” Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


2)  Haggling over price


John Olson calls them “the price hunters” and he’s learned to turn them away over his 20 years in business. They’re the people who call or email GrayStone Industries, his pond and fountain-supply company in Cleveland, Georgia,, with eyes only on the price tag. He says his staff gets calls from people who say they’ve contacted them and their competitors, and will buy from whoever has the lowest price.


In those cases, Olson says “we will not even provide a quote, which would force some other poor seller into beating it by sacrificing their own profit. That’s not the way we want to do business.”  His products and these projects, he says, require a “modicum of intelligence” from customers, and his staff is constantly trained to assist anyone with questions before or after a sale. So forget about a retail race to the bottom, he explains. “Anyone who cares more about the price than the company selling these type of products is setting themselves up for failure—it will come back to haunt any company who caters to this type of customer.”


3) Negative or abusive comments


The customer is always right? Let’s hope not, judging by the unprecedented abuse that business owners say they’re experiencing via the Internet. Melinda West, founder and CEO of SwagsGalore.com, a curtain and window-treatment ecommerce site based in Lakeville, Pennsylvania., says she has a greatest-hits collection of the crude, angry, or wacky messages she’s seen from the site’s order-comments box since she opened in 1999.


“People seem to have no problem leaving messages, but in person they likely wouldn’t be that crass,” West says. “The comments are so rude or bizarre that you don’t know whether to take them seriously.” So she’s had to block some users’ IP numbers from the site, canceled orders with a brief note, or told the pushiest ones that their goods were out of stock—just to make them go away. Though West says the overwhelming majority of the company’s orders are pleasant or at least uneventful, cutting off negative new customers no longer keeps her up at night. “Sometimes people are nasty and they don’t even order anything—how can they be so irate over curtains?” Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


4) A bad fit


Maybe the work is too outside your specialty, the budget is a tough stretch, or ethical or personal lines are crossed. Don’t ignore the red flags. Frank Ebysen, a founder of Santa Monica, California-based OnClick Marketing, an SEO and social media services company, says he’s adopted a “serious person” test, a concept his business partner learned from co-workers at a company overseas. For example, there are clients who have good ideas, but the lack of a sound game plan makes them problematic, he says. Now when they discuss whether to take on a client or turn them away, it comes down to whether the person is genuine and worth their expertise, or if they come off as “not a serious person.”


Or you could turn the tables. One PR agency executive says her small agency has started asking potential clients for a list of their references before they agree to do business. “They’ll get the feeling that you are selective and not just looking to make a buck. You’ll appear to be the leader in the situation—but mostly it helps to ward off the ones who will be a headache,” she says.

Perhaps turning away someone’s business could possibly help make that customer look within, to see that they were —gasp!—wrong. Simon says that yoga client who sparked the police call came back to her studio a year later, seeking forgiveness and promising to behave. He’s been a regular on the mats there for years now.


She says it’s added to the meaning of her business. “You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. There are students I see that are in such despair and in a heightened state of anxiety. They are coming to me to take care of that,” Simon says. “When you can understand that, then you’re doing your job.”

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

With Veterans Day around the corner, I am reminded of one of the questions I got the most during the past decade writing my USA TODAY column: why aren’t more small business owners hiring veterans?

It was a very legitimate question. The fact is, since 9/11, American veterans have come home to a very icy employment picture. For much of that time, veteran unemployment figures typically were several percentage points higher than the national average. For instance, in 2011, the number of veterans out of work stood at 12.1%. In 2012, it fell to 9.9%, but even that was several points higher than the national average. Happily, veteran unemployment continues to fall. Today it hovers around 7%.

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.


So yes, the good news is that employers seem to be warming up to the idea of hiring vets. The only real question is why did it take so long? Veterans generally make very good employees, especially because of their training and background.


And, if you think about it, that same training also means that veterans tend to be excellent entrepreneurs and small business owners:


  • Veterans understand how to create a plan, implement and execute it
  • Many are trained to be leaders
  • They understand systems
  • Hard work and commitment are in their bonesYet veterans face the same challenges that all small business owners face, as well as some unique to the veteran experience. Like all small businesses, finding the training and assistance needed to succeed can be tough. Beyond that, veteran entrepreneurs who are disabled or have other trauma-related issues have their own, unique set of issues to deal with.


    Pull Quote.png


    So for all of the men and women who were brave enough to both serve our country, as well as who want to start a business (or have), here is a list of resources to make your entrepreneurial life easier:


Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

FacebookFacebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

by Jennifer Shaheen.


Have you noticed lately that Facebook looks different? If your News Feed hasn’t changed yet, don’t worry, it soon will. Since early March, Facebook has slowly been rolling out its new News Feed design, giving users the first meaningful remodel of the site since 2006. What does this mean for you, the small business owner? Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business


Image is everything

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Facebook News Feed is how much larger and more prominent the pictures are. People can continue to upload photos directly to Facebook, or share their images from other social media sites, such as Instagram or Pinterest. Photos are so central to the new design that Facebook allows users to choose a “Photos Only” view (more about that later). Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

For the small business owner, the new Facebook News Feed means it’s time to embrace visual marketing. “Selecting the right images is key—images get behind our conscious thinking and connect with our emotions,” says Joe Decker, of Rock Slide Photography. “Images of owners or employees at a small business help create a sense of connection with that business, and make it easier for customers to make the first call.” Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Share your own original images on your business’s Facebook page, but don’t stop there. Your visual marketing strategy can include using photos from your manufacturers or suppliers, buying stock images, sharing existing memes, infographics, and more.

Exercise your emotional intelligence when choosing images for your Facebook page. “Having people smiling, interacting, making eye contact, either with each other or with the viewer help give a sense of happiness for the perfection they seek in their lives,” says Dov Friedmann, of Photography by Dov, who specializes in corporate events photography. “You want to have an eye-catching image or photograph that attracts the viewer and also captures the essence or tells the story of what your company is about.”

How your customers will find you now

Central to Facebook’s new design is an easy to use navigation system that allows users to pick and choose what content they view. Content is sorted into Feeds, only one of which will be displayed at any given time. Switching from Feed to Feed is simple and easy, just like changing the TV channel.

There are six standard Feeds: All Friends, Close Friends, Music, Photos, Following, and Games. Your business page posts will appear on the Following Feed, and the images you post will appear on the Photos Feed as well.

Facebook has always had limited navigation. The redesign makes the navigation more prominent and easier to use. There will be an adjustment period as Facebook users become acclimated to the new system, but in the long term, the revamp may serve small business owners well. The organization of business pages into a centralized stream filters out distractions that compete for your customer’s attention.

Make the most of metrics

Facebook Insights tell page administrators how many people saw a post, how many people liked it, and how many people shared the post with their friends. Use this information to gauge how relevant and meaningful your customers find the images and updates you post.

“Our goal is to engage our fans and sometimes that might be a serious photo of a re-breather diver and other times it could be a scuba diver riding a bike underwater,” says Darren Pace, Director of Marketing for SDI, TDI and ERDI, a dive training organization. “Regardless of what type of images are assumed to work best, always check your insights to make sure your fans feel the same way.”

Move toward mobile

One of the most important changes in Facebook’s new design is one that many small business owners might not even notice. The new site design is responsive, which means Facebook’s appearance and layout will always be consistent, no matter what type of device users choose to use to view the site. Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

 Why did Facebook do this?

Take a look around as you go through the course of your day. How many people do you see that are ‘unplugged’—not actively engaging with any type of mobile device at all? Chances are the number won’t be too high. The reason it looks like everyone is using a smartphone or tablet computer is pretty simple: almost everyone is. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index has projected that there will be more Internet-connected devices than there are people by the end of this year.

A recent Google study found 90 percent of Americans move sequentially across multiple screens in one day to access information and entertainment. Facebook’s adoption of responsive design provides their customers with a satisfying experience no matter where they are. Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Impact of responsive design

What happens if a customer who is using Facebook on their smartphone or tablet decides to follow one of your links and goes to your website? This is where website design becomes really important. If your business website is responsive, it will adapt automatically to look good on your customer’s viewing device, and they’ll have an optimized experience.

If your business website is not responsive, it may not look good or function well on your customer’s viewing device. The website that looks great on a desktop computer may not render properly on a smartphone. Customers are impatient. They’re not going to try to figure out how your website is supposed to look. They’ll just see that things are out of alignment or too hard to read and move on—and there goes your potential sale. Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs

5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

by Erin McDermott.

5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.. It’s cap and gown time. Another generation faces the daunting question: What on earth should I do now?  Rest assured, America’s entrepreneurs were there once, too. So what would this wizened and battle-hardened group tell an ambitious young person if they could? We offered a few business owners the chance to proffer some smart advice to future head honchos. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

What do these entrepreneurs wish they knew when they were leaving school?5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

1. Capitalize on your freedom

Most new grads have life’s weightiest matters still ahead of them: marriage, kids, mortgages. So if you’re looking to strike out on your own, now may be the time—before decisions become more complicated and the risks too great. Twentysomething Nick Ramil and his business partner, Tim Nybo, finished college and headed to Guangzhou, China, to teach English part-time—and start up their consultancy on the side to pursue international opportunities. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. Now they’re running Royal American Wines, an importer and distributor, and coaching Chinese and global entrepreneurs. “The majority of people are too scared to take action,” Ramil says. “Over time, these people’s dreams and ambitions are slowly extinguished. Even if you fail, you played the game… this will only be a positive or sign of strength on a resume.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

2. Build something

Create a website. Or, better yet, an app—it’s a skill that’s in high demand. Along the way, you’ll learn things that are indispensable, like how to code, manage a project, study analytics, or a thousand other tools, says Gabriel Mays, the 28-year-old founder of Justaddcontent.com, a San Diego-based website maker for small businesses, and a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. The bottom line: Work on something that solves a problem in your industry. “If this isn’t your background, it’ll make your mind work in ways you never thought it could,” Mays says. “Can you image someone who conceived of, designed, built, marketed, and supported something completely new? They understand every step of the process. Talk about marketable when you throw that on a resume.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

3. Your early relationships matter more than you think

Everyone has to start somewhere, but don’t make the mistake of believing that any task is beneath you. Vannessa Wade, now the 32-year-old president of her own Houston-based public-relations firm, Connect the Dots PR, looks back at her early work days and cringes a bit. “You have to learn to volunteer for projects and to be a team player,” she says. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. On one job, “my mind was always ‘Get me out of here,’ not realizing it was coming out in my actions.’” Instead, learn how to take disappointment and keep adding more skills. “You don’t have to show that you’d rather be out trying to be an entrepreneur,” Wade says. Instead, become a magnet for a mentor: “Work hard and people will want to look out for you.” These days, she often taps into that early network she built for advice. “People actually want to help you,” Wade explains. “I can reach out to other entrepreneurs to pick their brains about what does and doesn’t work, or get an honest answer about what I might be doing wrong.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.


4. Be a good observer

Watch how other people operate, what niches they occupy, how their systems and organizations work, and zero in on their motivations and goals. It’s the best thing Matthew Zehner says he’s learned from his business. He takes the time “to read people, interpret this information, and use it to communicate more effectively to create the best possible outcome for my clients, my business, and my employees.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. Zehner, the 28-year-old chief executive of ZehnerGroup, an interactive media agency, now has a staff of 30 employees, based in Los Angeles. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.The observational skill set becomes essential when dealing with difficult situations. “That life lesson is invaluable in the business world—whether it’s knowing how to word an email to a potential client to get the response I’m hoping for or how to communicate project risk with a client early on.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.


5. Know when to ask for help

Georgette Blau was just out of college in 1999 when she started giving weekend tours of New York’s famous movie and television locations, as a sideline to her job in publishing. “Once I hit about $400 a week, I thought I could make a go of it full-time and make it a lot bigger,” she says. There were plenty of in-demand settings, as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Seinfeld and others were becoming popular. But for about 18 months, she was doing it all: taking reservations, conducting tours, arranging marketing and logistics, and handling the finances. Looking back, she says monopolizing all of these burdens kept her fledgling company from growing faster. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.She added an office staffer and made it through some difficult times after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then steadily started to build up On Location Tours, learning plenty of management lessons along the way. Now with 50 employees on the job, she’s readying a TMZ celebrity-gossip-themed tour and looking at possibilities for the HBO series Girls. “It’s great to have the experience of wearing different hats, but in order to move forward in a business, you really have to hire at least an office manager to help with more time-consuming tasks, say Blau, now 38.  5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.