Tag Archive: 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


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

Creating a Living Business Plan

Creating a Living Business Plan

To strengthen your focus and prospects for growth, commit your strategy to paper—and let it live off the page.Creating a Living Business Plan

1. Introduction: Plan Because You Need To

Staff members at the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC) receive frequent calls for help in creating a business plan. The trouble is, the entrepreneurs who seek this assistance often aren’t launching new companies. They’ve been running existing companies without a business plan and sit down to write one only when forced to by banks or other lenders who need that document to process a financing application.

That approach deprives the company of a resource that can play an important role in driving and guiding growth. “The plan is really a management tool for the business owner,” says Joyce Krech, the SBDC’s director. “It’s a great piece of the lending package, as well, but we would prefer that they be doing it for their own purposes and not because they’re being asked to do it.”Creating a Living Business Plan

2. Stay On Course and On Target

Capturing your business planning process in writing gives you a solid analysis of the company’s mission, income, financial obligations, and paths to growth. Companies that operate without a written plan run the risk of getting distracted and thrown off course by opportunities that may seem interesting but aren’t really germane to their core business and function.

“They lose their focus, which just deters them from growth,” says Gwen Moran, founder of Biziversity, an online information resource for small businesses, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans (second edition, Alpha). “A business plan acts as your touchstone to keep you on track, to make sure that your business is performing in the way that you expected it to perform. Without a business plan, it’s very difficult to gauge those metrics and to know exactly what your business needs are at any given time.” Creating a Living Business Plan

Once the plan is written, how do you keep it in play and optimize its value to your business? Experts recommend that you revisit your plan each time you review the company’s performance—whether that means at annual or quarterly meetings or in regularly scheduled conferences with your financial advisor. That helps business owners to hold themselves accountable to their plans and look objectively at whether the company is on course in terms of liquidity, credit, human resources, pay scales, production capabilities, distribution and logistics systems, risk management, and marketing.

“A good accountant will be able to help you fine-tune your plan and see opportunities and pitfalls that you might not even see because you’re so in the day-to-day of your business,” Moran says. Other options include SBDCs, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), or non-competing business owners who are interested in providing mutual support. “You’ll get insights from different industries and new ways of thinking about doing things.” Whichever option you choose, make sure you select advisors who are willing to stand up to you and make sure you engage in all the critical thinking necessary to maximize the company’s potential for success. Creating a Living Business Plan

3. Know How to Answer, “What If?”

These reviews will help you to assess not only how well your company is performing, but how thorough the plan is in anticipating what could go wrong and how you’ll handle those scenarios. “It could be a resource issue. It could be a competitive issue. The law could change,” says management consultant and business planning specialist Jenifer Grant. “There should always be a risk section in the business plan. And then you can assess, what happens if a key person goes away? What happens if the costs of our main ingredients go up? What if I need to hire people, and I can’t find them? You need to assess all the different risks that could have an impact on your business.”

And those if-then analyses aren’t limited to worst-case scenarios. You should also consider what you’ll do if, for example, your product takes off so much faster than anticipated that you suddenly need to ramp up production and contend with cash flow issues and staffing shortages. “Fast growth can be as much of a stressor as slow growth, or even more so,” Moran says. “You have demands placed on your business, and if you can’t meet the demands of your customers, you’re ultimately going to disappoint them, and they’re going to turn elsewhere.” Creating a Living Business Plan

Comparing what’s written in the plan with what’s happening day to day can even produce insights about entry into new markets or expansion of your customer base. “Then you start thinking, as one of my clients did, ‘I never thought about this particular type of customer for my product before, because I had one vision in mind, one road on my roadmap. I didn’t see this other parallel customer base that I can tap into at very little cost,’” Krech says. In that scenario, too, a business plan is an invaluable resource in helping the company to modify its course and take advantage of those additional opportunities. Creating a Living Business Plan

4. Bring the Whole Team on Board

But the business plan is not just a resource for entrepreneurs and executives. It’s a big challenge, but to get the biggest return on your investment in the plan, you’ve got to look for ways to make it live throughout the organization and ensure that it is supported by every employee. “On a day- to-day basis, you come in, you do your job, whatever it is,” Grant says. “It has to resonate with what you do—you, the individual employee.”

As a business owner, part of your job is to communicate the plan’s importance through your actions and behavior. “As you begin to fulfill your plan, it’s your job to talk to your employees, to talk to your team members, to get them as excited about your business as you are,” Moran says. She advises business owners to make sure their employees understand the solution that the company offers in its market and also the strategy you’re pursuing to achieve your market share. In addition, all employees should know their roles in the business and how they are important to the overall corporate vision. “That’s how you get buy-in. You need to be excited about your plan. If you’re not, then you need to go back to the drawing board until you find what makes you excited about your business, something that you can communicate to the people in your organization to get them excited about the difference that they’ll make in this process.” Creating a Living Business Plan

Moran offers the example of the CEO of a mid-sized manufacturing company who each month invites a small group of employees to his office for coffee, donuts, and conversation about the business. Giving employees that kind of access to a business owner who knows their names and asks after their families is a morale booster. It also gives staff members a chance to see how committed the boss is to the company. “When you see someone who’s truly excited or truly passionate about something, it’s hard not to care about that,” she says. “You get that great one-on-one face time. You get that opportunity to convey excitement, to convey enthusiasm, to let people know that they’re part of a winning team. And everybody wants to be part of a winning team.”

5. A Plan for Top Performance

Once you’ve integrated the plan into your company’s day-to-day operations, how often do you need to revisit and re-evaluate it? That depends on your business and its rate of growth. During periods of rapid growth or cash flow crisis, some entrepreneurs and venture capitalists find it necessary to review the business plan weekly to make sure the numbers are on track. And any time you pass a major milestone or hit a certain revenue target, it’s good practice to re-evaluate the plan and make sure that it’s still serving you well. At a minimum, experts say, you must review the plan annually, and a quarterly review is preferable. Creating a Living Business Plan

“When you keep a microscope on those numbers, they’re going to tell the story of your business. And too many business owners don’t,” Moran says. “They let a few financial statement periods go by before they actually look at the numbers. Then they realize that their expenses are far too high and their incoming revenue is far too low, and they start getting into trouble. But when you start following the numbers monthly and then doing a very serious dive into what’s happening in your business according to the metrics on a quarterly basis, that’s when your business plan starts to become a living, breathing document.” Creating a Living Business Plan

Ultimately, that shouldn’t come at the expense of a huge investment of your time. You can achieve these goals without creating a massive document; a few pages can suffice. The objective is to be equipped to compare current operations and numbers with a written projection or benchmark that points out any divide—positive or negative—between the company’s projected and actual performance. And over the long run, a resource that accomplishes that should save you time, keep your company on track, and help ensure that the business delivers on its potential for sustained profitability and growth. Creating a Living Business Plan

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.

Debt of Gratitude: The importance and value of thanking your employees

Debt of Gratitude: The importance and value of thanking your employees
by Erin McDermott.

Why was there no one to answer the phones at Windsor Resources the other day? Instead of a proverbial “Gone Fishin’” sign up on the front door, it would have been more apt had it said, “Tennis, anyone?”

More like tennis everyone: All 30 employees of the New York and Stamford, Connecticut, staffing and recruiting firm spent the day in Flushing Meadows at the National Tennis Center, checking out the action at the U.S. Open. It was a measure of thanks from Windsor chief executive and founder John Schapiro to his staffers, who he says have stuck by him through the ups and downs of running a small business.

“Everyone’s given their all to make this opportunity for me and I want to give back,” Schapiro says. “I think everyone works with me and not for me. When you have a staff that shows such ethics, loyalty, and appreciation, you want to do something nice for them.”

With Labor Day having just passed by on the calendar, it’s time to reflect on a holiday that pays homage to Americans’ work ethic and honors the effort that built this country and its giant economy.

It can also prompt small business owners to think about how they can show gratitude to their employees. While times have been tough at many companies recently, it’s still important to remember the long-term value of having employees who feel appreciated. “The costs associated with thanking our employees are minimal compared to the costs we incur when we have to replace them,” notes David Handmaker, president of Next Day Flyers, a Rancho Dominguez, California-based online printing company. “Letting employees know they are valued is a message which should be continually conveyed.”

So how can you give back without breaking the bank, while still giving employees something of genuine value?

Start by thinking of what you can afford, says Jerry Ross, a longtime entrepreneur and now executive director of the National Entrepreneurial Center, a small business development group in Orlando, Florida. “A raise of a dollar an hour is nice, but after the first paycheck it may not mean much to them. It’s something that will cost you every week after that.”

Ross recalls taking his teams on brewery tours, go-kart racing outings, and pizza and beer nights—all focusing on building camaraderie, boosting morale, and making for fun memories. Over the years, he’d negotiate with clients to build up a stockpile of freebies and gift certificates, which he’d in turn offer to staffers deserving of a thank you. “People don’t usually leave companies because of money,” he says. “They leave because they have bad bosses.”

But what works? A few ideas from other small business people:

Know your staff. Make it a general practice to chat throughout the year, to learn the names of significant others, kids, grandchildren, pets, activities, and challenges, too—the things that matter most to them. A small donation to a favorite charity or even a Bring Your Pet to Work Day will be long remembered.

Blow off steam together. When significant goals or deadlines are reached, why not recognize hard work with a bit of a blowout? When employees can bond on other levels it can be good for your business, too. Shawn Farner, a web communications and marketing specialist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says he fondly remembers his time in the insurance industry, when his company would pick up the tab for a quarterly day out with co-workers. “A bean counter might see that as a day of lost productivity and a couple of hundred dollars the company didn’t need to spend, but I saw it as a great way to show appreciation,” says Farner. “A bonus is nice, but a good time is even better.”

Don’t forget significant others. If your staffers are putting in long hours, it’s likely affecting their personal lives, too. So aim your special rewards at not only your employees, but their loved ones, too. “I believe people appreciate stuff that’s done for people they love even more than stuff that’s done for them,” says Tolulope Akinola, founder of AppHere, a five-person app development company in Palo Alto, California. As someone running a startup on a tight budget, he says he still does his best to find opportunities to show his appreciation, such as gifts of dinner for two at a nice restaurant or spa gift certificates to spouses or partners who deal with his employees’ longer-than-usual absences.

Low-cost rewards don’t have to feel cheap. Consider a monthly drawing with inexpensive prizes, like a later start on a Friday or a Starbucks card. Celebrate an employee of the month and let the staff make the decision. A tower of cupcakes to celebrate when an employee passes a certification exam or achieves a periodic safety record is also a good idea. While financial incentives are always welcome by employees, smaller tokens of appreciation often have a more lasting effect in showing employees their hard work is not going unnoticed.

For more information on this article, go to http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/growing-your-business/employeebenefitsandretirementplanning/blog/2012/09/06/debt-of-gratitude-the-importance-and-value-of-thanking-your-employees

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!

5 Innovative Ways to Generate New Business

In his great book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber says that many small business owners spend too much time working in their business and not enough time working on their business. Why is working on our business so important?

Because clients and customers leave.

They leave for all sorts of reasons – maybe they don’t need you anymore, or they found what you do somewhere else that is more convenient or cheaper, or they moved, or whatever. Working on your business means it is not a crisis when a customer leaves.

Here then are five innovative ways to work on your business – to grow your business – without breaking the bank:

1. Tap into the Power of Testimonials: Satisfied customers can be one of a small business’ best marketing tools. A testimonial impresses potential customers because it is an independent third-party validation that a business really is as good as it claims to be.

So get out there and ask some of your best customers to write you some letters of recommendation on their stationary. Then you can take these testimonials and:

Put them in your shop window
Add them to your website
Add them as an email tagline
Use them on your blog or e-newsletter
Use them in sales presentations

What about adding a video testimonial to your website? Talk about making an impact.

2. Boost Your Word-of- Mouth Advertising: We all know that word –of-mouth is the best sort of advertising there is. But aside from just waiting or hoping that a customer passes your name along, you can:

Create a referral reward system that gives customers a discount when they refer you business
Encourage comments on your Facebook page, blog or website
Ask your best customers to recommend you

Finally, check out the organization Le Tip; a group whose purpose is to foster word of mouth referrals.

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

3. Stay in Touch: One way to make a one-off customer into a loyal, repeat customer is to remain top of mind. If you want to get repeat business, your customer has to think of you when he or she has a need. They will more likely think of you if you gently, consistently (but not too often) stay in touch with them.

Here are two ways to do this:

Social media is all the rage for a reason: It works. Creating a Facebook page for instance is easy, and through contests and great content, you can get people to “like” it. Thereafter, that page becomes a friendly place to stay in touch. Tweeting can also be used.
Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch because it is permission marketing, that is, by signing up to receive your e-newsletter; customers are giving you permission to stay in touch with them.

4. Sell gift certificates and gift cards: You see gift cards for sale everywhere these days – at the market, in department stores, heck, I even saw some for sale recently at my car wash. Bottom line: Gift cards sell, it is estimated that up to 10 percent of all holiday sales now are in the form of gift cards.

Gift cards cannot only be used by large businesses. Any small business can and should create them as well. Also, if you currently accept debit and credit card payments, check with your card processor to see if they offer a gift card program.

5. Up-sell, but do it right: As you likely know, up-selling is the art of having a customer buy more than their initial purchase. Up-selling, when done wrong, is annoying, but when done right can help both you and your customer. The key is to offer the item in a helpful, non-aggressive way, i.e., “Did you know that if you buy two more gift soaps, we throw in another one for free?” If they say they are not interested, don’t pursue it any further, or you may be seen as overbearing and pushy.

What types of approaches do you use to get new business? What have you found that works/doesn’t work? Share your tips with the SBOC community below.

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. 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. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

4 Things to Consider Prior to Relocating Your Small Business

There may be many reasons for relocating your small business. Knowing what type of impact a relocation will have on your business is essential in order to determine your success.

If you are planning a move in order to be closer to customers, conduct demographic research, examine competitors in the area and determine whether or not you will interface with customers prior to making any move. Take a look at references such as The Statistical Abstract of the United States, which provides useful information that can help you narrow down your list of choices.

If you want to streamline business operations, consider whether or not you should move a specific part of the business to another area (such as moving a manufacturing arm). Another alternative is to combine sales and manufacturing in one location. Examine these options closely and determine which choice is best for your small business – it could provide the flexibility and convenience that you need.

Although, saving money is always a factor in making business decisions, make sure you’re looking at the big picture and vet all financial possibilities. For example, if you move to an area with a more favorable tax structure, will you then lose money on transportation costs or having to remodel your new space? Additionally, although you may save money on real estate, does the new area you’re choosing have the talent pool you will need to drive your business forward?

If you are considering opening more than one outlet for a retail operation, be sure that your stores are far enough apart geographically that they don’t cannibalize each other’s revenues. Additionally be sure that you have the manpower to staff both locations, as well as the personal bandwidth to manage multiple locations.

If you have considered these factors and decide to move forward with relocation, the following are some tips to remember:

Investigate lower rates for new businesses in your potential locations on everything ranging from electricity to workers compensation insurance to tax concessions for certain types of businesses.
Undertake an audit of environmental and/or regulatory issues long before you sign a contract for a new space. Failing to look into whether your new location is near a landfill, or has sewage run off underground, can require an expensive remediation effort that can quickly eat up any cost savings you hoped to realize.
Apply for all the relevant licenses and permits and register with state and local tax authorities, no matter how redundant it feels.
Consult a tax advisor to determine if you can deduct relocation costs on your tax return, including research trips, travel and moving costs.

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Finally, make sure the timing is good. Ensure you and your staff has the energy to undertake a major project at this time. A relocation effort can take anywhere from several months to several years before it is complete, and there will be some inevitable interruption of business. On the other hand, once you are settled in your new location, you may rediscover some of the excitement that you had when you started your business the first time. Relocating your small business naturally involves some risk, but as an entrepreneur, you know that’s when you have the opportunity to earn greater rewards.

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.

Hard to grow your client base as a single-person operation?

When you are one person trying to run your accounting, finance, administrative, marketing, operations, and customer service departments during a 24 hour period each day, you start to wonder “How the heck am I going to grow this thing?” You do not have the time for networking events or posting flyers and you do not have the budget for any sort of advertising campaign (both online or in the physical world!)

So what do you do? I say focus on how you deliver your product or service!

Think about it! If you are a service-based company, then you are being hired because of your expertise in a given area (or because you are cheaper than your competitors.) The only thing your client expects is for you to deliver what they are paying for. You, however, actually have much more knowledge about what your service is provided for and why it is needed than your client may know and/or think they need to know. Educate your clients about your industry, products, and services and why they are needed. Share your knowledge with your clients that can help them make better informed decisions in the future and possibly prevent any problem situations that may arise down the road. Giving your knowledge to you clients is free to you, but invaluable for them!

The rest is up to you! You should be managing the entire client experience with your company in a way that promotes honesty and integrity! Become a vendor they can trust and count on! Show them you want them to become as successful as they can be by exceeding their expectations! Not just in terms of the service you are providing, but the way you provide it and the knowledge you share with them! They will love you for it and sing your praises, and not just to you! When they come in contact with others that need your services, they will remember you!

Now your business growth is fueled by FREE marketing in the form of word-of-mouth advertising and client referrals!