Tag Archive: business_start_up

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


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.”

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.

The 7 best TED talks for small business owners

The 7 best TED talks for small business owners

by Erin McDermott.

Got time for a bite-size bit of inspiration? Take a look at TED Talks.

What started as a small conference that shared new thinking on technology, education, and design (that’s where the T-E-D comes from) in the 1980s has grown into an Internet juggernaut with videos that together have drawn nearly one billion views. Many cities in the U.S. and elsewhere are hosting smaller versions of the TED Talk franchise and a feature in The New Yorker this summer suggests TED has managed to turn “ideas into an industry.” But there’s also plenty of smart stuff here for small business owners. Many talks feature innovators and entrepreneurs, with savvy ideas about marketing, leadership, and burgeoning industries rife with opportunities. The clips vary in length from less than five minutes to about the average coffee run, and are engaging, fast moving, and very funny at times.

Here’s a look at seven TED Talks that small business owners should make time to watch.

Lisa Harouni: A Primer on 3D Printing (14:05)

Have you been hearing a lot about 3D printing? It very well could be the next revolution in manufacturing: technology that, layer-by-layer, assembles even the most intricate of designs. The idea and the industrial-scale machines have been around for some time, but a new focus on their capabilities—from architecture and construction use to human bones to (seriously!) a whole racecar—has engineers around the world jazzed. Some experts believe these devices could become a household norm in the not-too-distant future. Watch Lisa Harouni, chief executive of London’s pioneering Digital Forming, in November 2011 and be dazzled.

David S. Rose: Pitching to VCs (14:42)

Seeking capital for your growing enterprise? Better get your pitch right before you run the gauntlet of venture-capital panels. David S. Rose, managing partner of Rose Tech Ventures, entrepreneur, and “pitch coach,” has been on both sides of the investors’ table. Here, Rose gives a fast-paced rundown of 10 things you must be able to express in your presentation if you want to win over the angels.

Daniel H. Pink: The Surprising Science of Motivation (18:36)

If you’re running your business based on traditional thinking about carrots and sticks when it comes to incentives for your employees, you might be wasting your time and money on outdated assumptions. Daniel H. Pink, the bestselling author of Drive, Free Agent Nation, and the forthcoming To Sell Is Human, has been changing perceptions about the 21st-century American workplace for more than a decade. Here, in this video, with nearly four million views, Pink talks about what science now knows and what some businesses are still doing—to their detriment.

Richard St. John: Success Is a Continuous Journey (3:57)

Need a pep talk? In less than four minutes, writer and entrepreneur Richard St. John recounts his own rise to the top—and his downfall after succumbing to the perks of success. (One tip: That sports car isn’t a solution to depression.) He outlines how he lost it and lessons for everyone on the importance of keeping your eye on the ball. (And here’s another good one from St. John at TED.)

Margaret Heffernan: Dare to Disagree (12:56)

Arguing with your partner may be a very good thing for your business. Why? Conflict can lead to progress, while colleagues who serve as an echo chamber are unlikely to help you break new ground. That’s the gist of former CEO Margaret Heffernan’s June 2012 talk. The question is: Who has the patience and wherewithal to find, listen to, and push forward with those who challenge them most?

For more info, http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/09/27/listen-up-the-7-best-ted-talks-for-small-business-owners

Flea Market Q&A: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the World of Secondhand Retail

Flea Market Q&A: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the World of Secondhand Retail
by Erin McDermott.

Flea markets rang up $30 billion in sales last year, according to the National Flea Market Association. Ki Nassauer (pictured) is executive editor of Flea Market Style magazine and founder of Junk Revolution a popular online forum for devotees of tag sales, vintage markets, and “junkers.” She recently spoke with writer Erin McDermott about what small businesses can learn from the tables and stands of these surprisingly big businesses.

EM: We know the old saying: “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” But that could also be called a niche market. What surprises you about what sells?

KN: The most difficult part is finding the place to sell it. So what sells in the West is different from what sells in the East; what sells in an antique shop is different from what sells in a flea market. That, to me, is the most interesting part of it all. There’s a buyer out there for pretty much anything, depending on your location.

EM: The Internet, with Ebay and Amazon, has added so much competition for many of the goods you might see at a flea market. And now there’s Etsy.com, which is so much more visual and appealing. How has this affected flea markets?

KN: It’s a different style of shopping. Etsy came at the right time: Everyone’s used to shopping online and they made it very easy. And in the last year, they’ve really improved their search, which personally has helped me dramatically with shopping online. You can search and go right to the vintage category and call up ‘crocheted potholders’ or ‘comic books’ or specifically search for the item for which you’re looking. And that’s actually easier than shopping at flea markets because you can narrow the search if you’re looking for something in particular. It’s more difficult to browse, certainly. I do it all of the time for magazine articles.

PQ_QAkinassauer.jpgEM: Flea markets are at the forefront of recycling, reusing, and repurposing materials. That’s also often true for entrepreneurs and small businesses when they’re starting out. What are you seeing in terms of a new focus on being green?

KN: It’s definitely a younger demographic than we’ve ever had before that appreciates flea markets. They appreciate recycling. They’ve grown up with it and it’s a cool thing to recycle, whereas, say, 50 years ago or even 25 years ago you didn’t see as many young people at antique shows or flea markets.

EM: What have you learned from flea and antique markets over the years? Are there lessons for entrepreneurs and small businesses?

KN: Flea markets themselves are an opportunity for people to start new businesses. There are people who would have never considered opening a small business, because of financial or time commitments. But here they can stick their toes in the water and try something. I get frequent calls and emails from people who say ‘I want to open a business’—maybe it’s decor or antiques or a vintage shop. I always recommend that they buy a few things, load up a truck, and go to a flea market. It’s the first step if you’re going into the antique or vintage industry.

Flea markets can teach so much to potential business owners. They won’t be isolated. There is competition among sellers and they will be right there with them. They can watch other vendors who’ve been doing it over the years. Be it business practices or their style, there’s so much to learn from the people who’ve been doing it. And it’s all around them.

EM: Have you seen some great success stories?

KN: Oh, absolutely! There have been a lot of small businesses that have started with people opening a booth with a friend. I think a lot of it has happened with women hitting mid-life or couples who are retired, or considering retirement, or, particularly, people who have had corporate jobs with crazy schedules who finally say ‘Enough is enough: I love vintage and go to flea markets as a hobby. How can I turn this into a business?’

And they start by just buying and selling stuff at a flea market, and that turns into maybe a shop, or something larger if they’re traveling cross-country to a show. And you know—people are earning a good living from buying and reselling. There are even people who get a TV career out of it!

Christopher Gardner Q & A: Lessons for Pursuing ‘Happyness’ in Business

Christopher Gardner Q & A: Lessons for Pursuing ‘Happyness’ in Business
by Susan Caminiti.

Christopher Gardner first made headlines with his best-selling memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, the story of his homelessness, which was made into the movie of the same name starring Will Smith. Today, he is the CEO of Gardner Rich & Co., a Chicago-based brokerage firm and the author of Start Where You Are—Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Recently, business writer Susan Caminiti spoke with Gardner about the challenges of running your own business, the importance of failure, and how entrepreneurs need to sometimes get out of their own way.

SC: What aspect of starting and running a small business is most often overlooked or underappreciated?

CG: When you do something that you truly are passionate about, nothing gets overlooked. And that’s the key. It’s when you decide to do something strictly so you can make money that the problems start setting in. The glass all of sudden always looks half empty. When you start a business, it’s not easy. There are a million things that grab your attention and need to be addressed. That’s why it’s so important to do something that you’re passionate about. It has to be that feeling of, the sun can’t come up soon enough in the morning so I can go out and do my thing. That’s the part some folks overlook.

PQ_QAchrisgardner.jpgSC: Is that why it’s so hard for entrepreneurs to delegate, because they’re so passionate about what they do?

CG: No, it’s because we’re control freaks! But seriously, for any business to truly grow and be successful, the owner has to get to the point that I had to reach in my business: there are people who are better than you at certain things. The hard part is finding them and then leaving them alone. I’ll give you a perfect example. I have a bad record in hiring people. But I have a person who’s worked for me for the past 18 years who’s much better at it than I am. She has every license I have and then some. It finally dawned on me that I should let her do the hiring. And you know what? It works. Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at—and then find the people that fill in those gaps. You can’t do everything. That’s just ego talking.

SC: In your book, Start Where You Are, you say there is no plan B for passion. How does someone starting or running a business balance this quest for passion with the practical needs of every day life?

CG: Passion is important but you have to have a plan and be very clear on what it is you want to start or how you want to grow a business you already have. I call it the “C-5 complex” and it revolves around these five words: clear, concise, compelling, committed, consistent. It’s great to have a dream of what you want but without a plan, that’s all it’s every going to be—a dream.

SC: Can you give me an example of how that played out in your life and company?

CG: In early 2008 my company had a $50-million commitment from an investor and I thought all was great. Then in September the financial crisis happened and that $50 million walked away. We had to re-evaluate everything. But that’s the beauty of having a plan, of being clear and committed. We didn’t try to take the company in a completely different direction. We stayed focused and kept moving ahead. And you know what? If I had gotten that $50 million and invested it before the crisis, we’d be so far under water right now it’d be hard to breathe. Sometimes the universe has a way of saying to you—step aside, the timing isn’t right on this.

SC: Failure is difficult in a corporate environment; for entrepreneurs it seems to be magnified and even more personal. How can business owners handle failure better?

CG: If you’re not failing occasionally, you’re not really trying anything. In fact, when you hire someone, the most important question to ask is: Tell me about a time you’ve failed at something. If they can’t give you an answer—or won’t—then you’ve got someone who’s not really going to get in there and be creative and energetic. They’re going to protect themselves. I always tell people, I’d rather be knocked out than tap out. I spent a part of my life homeless. It would have been so easy to give up. I didn’t. Success in life is about how many times you get up, not how many times you fall down.

SC: What’s the best piece of management advice you ever got?

CG: I was with [former Citigroup CEO] Sandy Weill years ago and we were talking about finding and keeping talented people. He said to me, ‘Chris, don’t ever be afraid to hire people smarter than you.’ Then he added, ‘But remember, even though they’re smarter it doesn’t mean you have to pay them more than you.’ I just laughed and thought, they sure don’t teach you that at Harvard!

An Outline on How to Start-up a For Profit Small Business

small business1)      OPTION 1: Go to your local county and apply for an assume name certificate.

a)      DALLAS:http://www.dallascounty.org/department/countyclerk/asmdname_procedures.php

b)      TARRANT COUNTY: http://www.tarrantcounty.com/ecountyclerk/cwp/view.asp?A=735&Q=435718


3)      Apply for an Employer Identification Number from IRS.Gov
a) http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html

4)      Go a landline for at least 3 months until you get properly listed in the directory

5)      Go to a local bank and open an small business account – suggest no fee type bank

6)      Apply for a domain and 5 page website for your small business

  1. GoDaddy.com (any website and mobile app capability) small monthly fee and wordpress for free with a subdomain
  2. Submit your business to directories – use godaddy plan for marketing for your small business

7)      Create an Small Business Development Business Plan and Capability Statement – your local SCORE OFFICE can help.

8)      Apply for DUNS# as a government suppliers for your small business

  1. http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/displayHomePage.do;jsessionid=81407B1F03F2BDB123DD47D19158B75F

9)      Register with a CCR.gov  if Central Contractor Registration for your small business

  1. https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/

10)   Apply for a Small Business Merchant Credit Account with a credit card processor along with google and paypal payments. A Merchant account for a business no more than $10

  1. PAYPAL https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/merchant
  2. GOOGLE https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?service=sierra&continue=https://checkout.google.com/main?upgrade%3Dtrue&hl=en_US&nui=1&ltmpl=default&sacu=1&gsessionid=GzWKqcSGuE-bfj0VWFPCLw

11)   Register a Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and Twitter account for social marketing for your small business.

12)   Register with State of Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for Reseller Certificate

  1. http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/sales/ GO INTO THE OFFICE
  2. http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxforms/01-3392.pdf NON PROFIT FORMS

13)   Go to Yourbuzz.com to register all your social links and watch to edit local directories listing

14)   Make videos for your tube, take picture for website and write a blog on your site

15)   Do your business with passion.

Courtesy of Tim Jacquet, Senior VP for Apple Capital Group
For questions, 214-224-0995
Our Blog – http://blog.applecapitalgroup.com (articles on small business management, marketing, financing, credit, etc.)
Radio – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/applecapitalgroup (Daily radio show Noon CST on blogtalkradio)
Company – http://www.applecapitalgroup.com

Franchising for Beginners

Do your homework before leaping into a franchise business model.

by Sherron Lumley.

“I didn’t want to start from scratch,” says Ann Bell who bought a Subway sandwich-shop franchise in 2010 with her husband Steve. “I was a stay-at-home mom and our kids are older now and off to college, so I decided it was time to go back to work,” she says. Although her husband had small business experience, Bell was more of an entrepreneurial beginner, so buying a franchise appealed to her as a safe way to invest in a business and re-enter the work force. “I work better under structure,” she says.

Pull-Quote.pngIn the franchise form of business, a franchisor licenses to a franchisee the right to operate under a trade name, sell its products and services, and receive guidance, in exchange for a fee. “My first step was to research the business model, to see if I could believe in it and embrace it,” says Bell. Typically, the franchisor provides business expertise in the form of marketing plans, management guidance, financing assistance, training, and sometimes site location. The Bells who are from Oregon, went to “Subway School” in Connecticut for training.

Here is a look at three early steps to franchise ownership.
Step One – Decision to buy a franchise: Yes/No

A franchise is a familiar form of business in America, accounting for 10.5 percent of all businesses with paid employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Clearly, the decision to buy a franchise has some strong advantages. In The Franchise Bible, How to Buy a Franchise, or Franchise your own Business, author Erwin J. Keup, says that group advertising power, recognizable trademarks, franchisor experience, patents and designs, training from experts, and a lower risk of failure or loss of investments are top reasons to become a franchisee. Other reasons are uniform operation, assistance in financial and accounting matters from the franchisor, and ongoing support.

Although ongoing support is typically considered one of the greatest advantages of franchising, it comes with a price. Nolo.com, a legal resource publisher, provides a look at some of the disadvantages to franchise ownership, which include royalty payments to the franchisor, advertising fees, and high start-up costs. Indeed, nine of the top ten U.S. franchises have start-up costs averaging more than $100,000 and the top three (Hampton Hotels, ampm convenience stores, and McDonald’s) are beyond the million-dollar mark to start.

For a sense of the ongoing fees franchisors expect, Subway requires franchisees like the Bells to pay 12.5 percent of their gross sales every week to the company; 8 percent of this goes toward franchise royalties and 4.5 percent goes towards advertising. This is in addition to the initial franchise fee of $15,000 and Subway franchise capital requirements fall between $115,000 and $258,000. However, not all franchises require such a hefty investment. Number seven on the list of the Franchise 500, Vanguard Cleaning Systems, has start-up costs of just $8,000 to $38,000.

For more information on choosing between launching your own business or buying into a franchise, check out our recent story: “My Way or the Buy Way.”

Step Two – Shopping for a franchise

Certainly, cost will be a factor and franchise options will be far different for a small business owner with a few thousand dollars of capital versus another with a million or more to invest. Here are a few of the many ways to shop for a franchise at all budget levels:

The Franchise Registry, through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) maintains a list of companies with franchises that are pre-approved for expedited loans.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends attending a franchise exposition to compare a variety of franchise opportunities and using a franchise broker who can help with applications and paperwork. But remember, the brokers often work for the franchisor. Information about upcoming national and international franchise expos and trade shows is available online at FranchiseDirect.com.

Franchise.com is another popular online resource. It offers an interactive search of franchises for sale by budget, industry, and location. The Internet is full of franchise websites to research, but “be on the lookout for certain characteristics that are very common among untrustworthy or illegitimate franchising sites,” warns Kevin Murphy, author of The Franchise Handbook. He specifically cautions against dealing with a company that does not provide full financial details at the outset and says that websites with overly aggressive marketing and a lot of hype should also be avoided.

As with any small business venture, consider the demand, competition, and ability to operate the business in making a franchise selection.

Step Three – Follow a franchise investigation strategy

“Never do business with people you have not met,” say the authors of Street Smart Franchising, Joe Mathews, Don DeBolt and Deb Percival. “Franchising at its best is a highly personal relationship. You are entrusting your dreams and capital into the care of the franchisor leadership,” they say. Visit the franchisor’s home office and further investigate the franchise by interviewing franchisees in person, and reviewing the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) with an attorney with expertise in franchise law.

In interviewing other franchise owners, ask questions about their experiences, both good and bad. “It’s important to interview people so you know the bad and ugly,” says Bell, who found this helped her know ahead of time what it would really be like to own a franchise. For example, she learned that unlike working for someone else, “It’s nice to work for yourself, but you do take your work home with you,” Bell says.

A look at financial prospects for franchising

Using Census Bureau data, the International Franchise Association released a detailed report on this segment of the U.S. economy called The Franchise Business Economic Outlook: 2011. It forecast growth in all industries except Business Services, reporting: “The largest percentage increases in the number of establishments in 2011 are projected in Lodging (4.4 percent), Automotive (3.9 percent), Retail Products and Services (3.9 percent), and Commercial and Residential Services (3.7 percent).”

“The forecast of stronger growth in 2011 for franchise businesses is good news for our country. When franchise businesses are stronger, so is our economy as a whole,” said IFA President and CEO Stephen J. Caldeira. “However, while the forecast reflects a stronger outlook for the franchise industry and the overall economy, franchise businesses will continue to struggle with accessing sufficient credit that would enable business expansion and job growth,” he said.

Caldeira says that lending to franchise businesses was down in 2010. “For 2011, the credit gap between supply and demand should show some improvement, but we are a long way off from the pre-recession, more robust appetite for business investment and lending.” According to the SBA, total small business lending peaked in 2008, when depository institutions in the United States held small business loans valued at more than $711 billion, then declined by 8.3 percent to $652 billion by 2010. In the first quarter of 2011, the SBA reported bank lending to small business [including franchises] fell by $15 billion.

Since 2007 when the Census Bureau first gathered franchise data, the number of franchise establishments is estimated to have grown steadily from 765,723 to 784,802, whereas overall entrepreneurship has had a slight decline. (Bureau of Labor Statistics data for self-employment in non-agricultural industries.) Perhaps one explanation for this is that risk-averse behavior kicks in during times of economic duress. The Bells wanted to own a small business, without all of the risks involved with going solo. By buying into something larger, gaining considerable expertise and centralized marketing, advertising, and promotion, Bell says she felt comfortable with the decision to buy a franchise. “I’m really happy with my outcome,” she says.


Additional Franchise resources:

The Franchise Registry, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration maintains a list of companies with franchises that are pre-approved for expedited loans.
Read the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Guide to Buying a Franchise.
Find franchises for sale by budget, industry, and location online at Franchise.com
Investigate franchise and business opportunities with the Better Business Bureau
Learn about upcoming franchise expos and tradeshows at FranchiseDirect.com.

My Way or the Buy-Way? Should you start your business from scratch or buy a franchise?

by Cindy Waxer.

Cary Cheung wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to run a business that requires him to pay a fee. He doesn’t own it outright, and it doesn’t even bear his name. And yet he couldn’t be happier.

That’s because Cheung is a franchise owner of Doc Popcorn, a maker of flavored popcorn that uses a variety of organic and all-natural ingredients. In fact, Cheung abandoned his career as an assistant vice-president at WaMu Investments to become Doc Popcorn’s very first franchisee in November 2009. And just a few weeks ago, Cheung and his wife, Judy, opened their second Doc Popcorn location in California.

Pull-Quote-Tall.pngThe Cheungs aren’t alone. According to the International Franchise Association, approximately 4 percent of all businesses in the United States are franchisee-worked. And the consultancy Franchise Marketing Systems says that franchising is a business model that generates more than $1 trillion in U.S. sales annually across more than 70 industries. Franchised businesses ran 767,483 establishments in the United States through 2008, including establishments owned by both franchisees and franchisors.

But while running a franchise business can be both professionally attractive and personally satisfying, not everyone is cut out for the task. Just ask Amy Bennett, owner of The Greene Grape, a Brooklyn, New York-based seller of fine food and wine. The choice was obvious to Bennett: “Part of opening my own business rather than a franchise was for it to be a creative outlet for me. I wanted something I could contribute to meaningfully.” Add that desire for creativity to the many negatives associated with franchising, such as royalty fees, restrictive licenses, meddlesome franchising authorities, and a lack of ownership, and it is easy to see why many are dissuaded from signing up to become a party to a franchise.

For many others, of course, those negatives are more than outweighed by the many benefits of running a business associated with an established brand and backed by the marketing muscle and support of a large corporation. So how do you know if you’re best suited to run a franchise or if you should strike out on your own? Answering these five questions can get you a step closer to the right answer.

1. How much legwork are you willing to do?

“When you invest in a franchise, you’re getting the brand name of the franchisor, the operating system, a proven track record, not to mention ongoing support, education and training,” says Brian Miller, president of The Entrepreneur’s Source, a business ownership consultancy in Connecticut. “If you started out running your own business, however, you really wouldn’t have anybody to rely on.”

That kind of pre-existing structure was precisely why the Cheungs opted to run a franchise. “My parents owned their own restaurant so I saw the struggles they had starting off and all those lessons they had to learn,” he says. “The attraction of a franchise is the system is created for you.”

“There are very few people who are true entrepreneurs and who can really go out and make a business their own,” says Miller. “But there are a lot of people who have that passion and fire in their belly and know that they want to take control of their own destiny but need a little bit of help.”

2. What are you willing to invest financially?

Launching your own business often requires little to no capital, especially if you start small. But many popular franchises demand lots of upfront capital and collateral—sometimes up to millions of dollars—from a prospective franchisee before offering a contract. These “working capital reserves,” as they’re called, are often required by franchisors so that they will feel comfortable that a franchisee can stay in business until he or she reaches the financial break-even point.

In the case of Cheung, he invested between $100,000 and $150,000 to open his first store, including upfront franchise fees. “That was a main reason why we chose Doc Popcorn—the low entry point.” Every other franchise he looked at was going to cost from $200,000 to $250,000 to start, he says.

Still, some franchises are willing to lend a helping financial hand. “My wife and I funded the store on our own, but I know that Doc Popcorn has third-party connections to help with funding,” says Cheung.

To learn more, check out our previous article on franchise startup costs.
3. Can you back someone else’s product?

While there’s definitely something to be said for creating your own business, many entrepreneurs are proud to peddle a franchise’s products. “The only reason we signed with Doc Popcorn is because of the product and what it represents,” says Cheung. “Of course, trying to make money is always a goal for all business owners but you have to believe in the product.”

For Bennett, however, launching The Greene Grape was an opportunity to express herself and act on her vision of a perfect wine shop. “At the time I opened my first wine store, there wasn’t really a franchise that focused on handcrafted, affordable wine,” she says. “My twist on a regular wine store was part of the creative process.”

4. How much say would you like in the business?

“The advantages to running your own business are mostly in creative control,” says Bennett. “I can market the way I want, my store can have a personality that reflects who we are. This means a lot more work, of course, but at the end of the day I can step back and be proud of how the store is presented.”

That’s not to suggest that franchisees don’t have any input. Rather, Miller explains, “As you become successful in a franchise system, there are opportunities for you to work collaboratively and to develop new products and services.”

5. How long can you wait to break even?

According to Miller, “the support given by a franchise in the beginning in terms of brand recognition means that you might have a quicker start in terms of sales. Educating the consumer for a new business definitely takes more time. Depending on how a franchise agreement is structured, that could mean breaking even for the franchisee earlier.”

Still, if the substantial franchise buy-in requirements are too steep, taking the franchise route (and its more desirable, early break-even point) may not be a realistic option for many budding entrepreneurs. Instead, they may have no other option but to launch on their own, either diving into entrepreneurship full-time and striving for a quick rise in profits or running a side or part-time venture for a longer period of time, until the business proves it can stand on its own.