Category Archive: Biz Tips

Jun 27

Suggestions for the Summer Slowdown

mostly-sunny

Now that the kids are out of school and the warm weather has approached, summer is the time when many businesses slow down.

Thinking of taking a few days off? Here’s what Ingrid Cliff on the Manta Small Business site recommends doing to get the most out of your summer slowdown.

  1. Plan a getaway. Hey, if you’ve got the time, why not?
  2. Take care of your health. You have to take care of you first! Remember?
  3. Take a business planning day. We like to make the distinction: working on your business, as opposed to working in it.
  4. Update your business. Create (or refresh) that Facebook page or Twitter account you’ve been avoiding.
  5. Renew your marketing materials. How about some shiny new signage. With a QR code, perhaps?

To read the full top ten, click through to the original article here.

This article by Lisa Barone at Small Business Trends also offers some great suggestions on how to be proactive during the summer months. Our favorite tip is 1. Go to camp! Summer, Barone says, is the best time to learn new skills, take classes, and attend events to form new relationships and expand your industry ties—activities that will allow you to develop both personally and professionally.

What are you planning to do with your time off? Leave a comment about your summer plans to recharge yourself and your business.

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Jun 08

Business Without Boundaries: Knowing When (and Where!) to Go International

Hi! We’re back with another conference “preview.” This time, on doing business globally. Christine Bonaguide, partner at Hodgson Russ and current chair of our Board, brings an informed legal perspective to this vignette of her upcoming presentation at the 2011 Women’s Leadership Conference.

Click here to continue reading…

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May 29

Using QR Codes to Promote Your Business

wlc_2011

This is old news in the techie blogosphere/twitterverse, but you may have noticed these little barcode-type images popping up. What are they? They are QR codes or Quick Response codes, and you’ll find them in advertisements and magazines, on tickets and boarding passes, and even on business cards and t-shirts.

So what do they do? Well, they allow immediate access to relevant information with the use of a smartphone.

Similar to traditional commercial barcodes, a QR code is a two-dimensional image made up of black and white pixels that, with the right app, can be scanned by a smartphone to reveal all sorts of digital content: a string of text, a website URL, an email, a phone number, a location on google maps, or even a youtube video.

This is a great way to expand your social media outreach.
Try posting codes on the front or back of your business card, on print advertisements, on brochures, signage, and other marketing materials, on product packaging, event materials and nametags, restaurant menus, ticket stubs, or receipts.

Link to your own website or online content, your Facebook page or LinkedIn, directions to your business, a free download, coupon codes and special offers… the possibilities are limitless!

How to generate a QR code?
It’s so easy! Simply use a generator site, like qrstuff.com or qrcode.kaywa.com. Save the image, and put it on whatever you’d like!

This is a great way to make yourself and your business more visible and accessible. And it’s free, so why not try it?

We also found these tips to be helpful: 5 QR Code Failures to Learn From (via @BuffaloNiagara)

This is a particularly good idea for the vendors (and even attendees) at our upcoming conference. Integrate a QR code into your table signage so that conference attendees can instantly access your website, connect with you on social media, or learn more about your products or services.

The 2011 Women’s Leadership Conference will be held on June 14th at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Find out more or register online.

What is your experience with using QR codes? Any advice? Leave a comment below.

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May 04

Working Mothers and Perspectives on Balance

balance_arlene

In consideration of Mother’s Day this weekend, we thought we’d have a little conversation with our working, business-owning, professional, and all-around rockstar moms. So on our Facebook page last week, we asked:

To the working mothers and mom-preneurs: how do you maintain your work-life balance?

 

What we found was that maybe this supposed balance doesn’t actually exist! So what’s the answer, then? How do these women manage to participate and be successful in both family and work life? Well, I’ll defer to the experts. This is what our friends and clients had to say:


Great insights.

This post on The Glass Hammer also acknowledged the mythical nature of this kind of balance, and the author, executive coach Ann Daly PhD, offered her strategies for “finding your focus” among both family and professional demands. A large part of that, she says, is “committing to being present in every moment, wherever you are,” echoing what Arlene had mentioned to us on Facebook.

Let’s continue the conversation here! What are your thoughts? If a true work-life balance doesn’t exist, how do you stay on track? Moms, how are able to fulfill both roles? Let us know in a comment below.

P.S.– A happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there from the ladies at the Women’s Business Center!

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Mar 04

Tax Time

It’s that time of year again, and every online resource for small business has some form of the “tax tips” post (see our roundup below), but we’d also like to acknowledge that this is the time of year to get organized for filing in 2011. For small businesses owners (and the self-employed), most tax preparation actually comes during the tax year: collecting receipts, tracking expenses, measuring revenue, etc. Make sure that you have a good accounting system that you can keep up with. Also make note of the changes to tax law in the upcoming year. Inc. Magazine has a great article outlining what you need to do to prepare for next year.

But for now, April 15th is looming, so let’s see what advice is out there for completing your 2010 tax return:

How are you filing this year? What are your tax issues? Let us know in a comment below!

Jan 19

Why 2011 is the Year to Start Your Business

Open-sign2

It might seem counter-intuitive to think of starting a business during these (still) tough economic times, but — according to some — there are some particular advantages to taking the leap now.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that there’s never been a cheaper time to start a new business. Small Business reporter Rosalind Resnik says:

Ten years ago, a typical Internet start-up needed $1 million to launch a product and millions more to prove its business model and scale it to profitability or an IPO. Today’s start-ups run lean and mean thanks to the plunging cost of technology and a surplus of real estate and talent. “The popular ‘lean start-ups’ approach favors developing a product and getting it into the hands of customers as quickly and inexpensively as possible,” says Mr. Ronick of UpStartBootcamp.com. “Plus, the stigma of freelancing has lifted for both companies and individuals so start-ups can hire top talent on an as-needed, virtual basis. This lets founders hire better talent with more flexibility, reduced office space needs, and lower benefits costs.” And thanks to the power of social networking, it’s no longer necessary to hire an expensive PR firm to generate press.

Read the full article for the rest of Resnik’s reasons for starting a business this year.

The lending marketing is also starting to open up again (Reuters: “Regulators see small business lending improving“) and there is unprecedented assistance available for the underserved: namely, women and minority business enterprises. For instance, the Small Business Administration (SBA) just announced two new loan initiatives: Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage. According to a recent press release, these programs “are aimed at increasing the number of lower-dollar SBA 7(a) loans going to small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities. The agency’s most popular loan product, 7(a) government-guaranteed loans can be used for variety of general business purposes, including working capital and purchases of equipment and real estate.” Find out more about the Advantage Loan Initiatives.

Additionally, there is a new emphasis on opening contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses as part of the SBA’s Final Rule, which we wrote about back in October.

Besides these supporting developments, there are many benefits to owning your own business. You can be your own boss. You can achieve financial independence and fully utilize your skills and knowledge, all while maintaining your creative freedom. And if you’ve been laid off or are currently unemployed, see this as an opportunity or an alternative to entering a saturated job market (a huge talent pool of your own potential employees!). So go ahead, take the leap in 2011, and like countless other innovative and creative women (and men), discover the joy of owning a business.

Leave a comment.

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Dec 10

Peer Mentoring: “You don’t need to go it alone!”

When Sir Edmund Hillary stood on top of Mt. Everest, he wasn’t alone. Beside him was a Sherpa mountaineer named Tenzing Norgay.

Women business owners and entrepreneurs: you don’t need to go it alone!

Being in business by yourself can sometimes be lonely and isolating. Perhaps you’re having issues and problems and you don’t feel comfortable sharing them with your employees. It’s also hard to know if your family and friends “sugarcoat” the feedback they give you.

Peer mentoring is a tool that many women business owners and professionals are starting to use to develop their businesses and strategies. With the guidance of a trained facilitator, a group of peers—often in similar stages of development—meet to exchange feedback, ideas, and concerns. It is an opportunity to benefit from mutual support and experience, to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. What is it like going through a state certification process? How do you resolve employee disputes? A peer group not only guides you through your struggles, but can relate to them. This is what makes a group mentoring relationship quite different than a business advisory or coaching relationship: you are all in the same boat. Often times, peer mentoring groups also have an educational component (as is the case with the WBC Forum group), enabling members to expand their knowledge base on emerging business tools and management techniques.

In the 2010 report Roadmap to 2020: Fueling the Growth of Women’s Business Enterprise, Marsha Firestone, WPO President and Founder, asserts the value of this model. She says that “collaborative learning draws out the insight and wisdom of each individual participant, resulting in a mix of ideas that benefits the whole.”

What makes a good group:
The group should be comprised of women whose businesses do not compete with yours but are similar in size, revenues and other key characteristics. Some groups might be divided by similar industry, like for those in medical or legal fields, or maybe for those running established family businesses. Group dynamics and group energy are important, and can increase your determination and encourage you to achieve your goals. Openness and honesty is key. Firestone adds: “The effectiveness of the group is entirely dependent on the participants’ willingness to share. Only when people are open about discussing their finances and other sensitive issues will the group benefit the most.”

Benefits to you:
The group functions not only as a sounding board for your issues, but from the members’ collective experience, you gain insight that you would not have gotten from family members or friends, or even mentors. The bonds forged between members of the group are equally as important, and can lead to strategic alliances and future collaborations. And perhaps most importantly, the support of the peer group drives you as a business owner to action: an unspoken intention is not as powerful as an intention you share with a group of peers.

Being a member of a group can provide you with inspiration, ideas and motivation.

What are your thoughts about peer mentoring? Are you a member of a peer group? What was your experience? Leave a comment.

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Aug 04

Grants and Loans: What You Need to Know

massage_business_finance

A majority of the start-up businesses that come through our doors inquire about grants, loans, and initial funding. Answers to these questions are often hard to give. There is a widespread notion that there is money out there for people looking to open a hair salon or consulting firm or whatever it might be. Unfortunately, that is not the reality.
Government grants are given out for research, for non-profits, and not much else (i.e., not for commercial ventures). Even if you happen to be starting a non-profit, grants are often hard to secure, and there are some pretty particular reporting requirements in order to maintain that funding.
Sometimes grants are allocated to small businesses in industries like childcare or green technology through state or local organizations, but they often require matching funds or other combined financing. Business.gov offers this online tool to search for grants you might qualify for.

Loans, on the other hand, are pretty widely available to small business start-ups. Here are some resources:

SBA 7(a) Loan Program guarantees small business loans from banks and other lending institutions for both start-up and existing small businesses. This is the most common option for SBA guaranteed loans and because most banks and some other commercial lenders participate, loans are widely available. While the lender agrees to structure the loan, it shares the risk with the SBA, making it easier to make loans to small business owners. Find out more about the 7(a) Program on the SBA website.

SBA Micro-Loan Program is another lending option with the SBA that provides. These are small, short-term loans that average $13,000 and max out at $25,000 and are distributed through community organizations with SBA funds. Find out how to apply for an SBA micro-loan here.

New York State’s Community Development Financial Institution Assistance Program (CDFI) provides micro-loans to business owners who may not qualify for bank loans, as well as minority and women-owned businesses. CDFI also offers one-on-one counseling and business development assistance to facilitate credit-readiness. Click here to find more information and a list of participating financial institutions.

New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC) is an organization that works in partnership with lending institutions to provide term loans, many of which do not meet the requirements for traditional financing. NYBDC, a WBC resource partner, handles lending for non-profits, veterans, women and minority-owned businesses, business located in Empire Development Zones, and other conventional business ventures. Find out more about these services on the NYBDC website.

If you’re looking for further resources, Business.gov has a lot of information on small business financing. Check out the user forums for additional insight.

What has been your experience looking for grants and loans as a small business owner or start-up? Leave a comment.

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Jul 19

Get. It. Together.

resizdimage

I’m writing this post as we at the WBC are sorting out annual projections, setting up budgets, and scheduling the coming year of programming. Our year starts in September, so in the quiet summer months, we have some time to collect ourselves and get our stuff together.

Yes, this is a post about organization.

I had a conversation with a woman today looking to start a business. We get a few of these calls a day. Daunted, they ask “What do I need to do?” “What are my first steps?” “How can I get funding?”
Well, first, we say, you need to get everything in order. Your market research, your business plan, your financial projections. And we have counselors who can help you with that. If there is one endeavor in your life that you need to be incredibly well-prepared for (apart from having a baby or getting married, maybe), it is entering into a business venture.

But this is only the beginning. Good organization is essential at all levels of business. A business runs like a well-oiled machine if you scrupulously track your book-keeping, update and maintain a robust client database, and if you can properly account for your time as an owner/manager/sole proprietor/independent contractor/CEO.

So for those both in and out of business, we want to share with you the organization tools that we love…
Click here to continue reading.

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May 17

Online Resources for Women Business Owners

stephanie-small

SCORE blogger Rieva Lesonsky wrote this great post on the top 15 sites for women in business. We think these are great sources and tools you can use to grow.

AllBusiness.com
Center for Women’s Business Research
Committee of 200
ForbesWoman
The Hot Mommas® Project Mission
NAFE (The National Association for Female Executives)
National Women’s Business Council
NAWBO (The National Association of Women Business Owners)
OWBO (The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership)
SBA (The U.S. Small Business Administration)
SBDCs (The Office of Small Business Development Centers)
SmallBizDaily
Small Biz Nation
WBENC (The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council)
WPO (The Women Presidents’ Organization)

Commenters also suggested these additional sites:
Business.gov
Women’s Leadership Exchange
Women Impacting Public Policy
Women Entrepreneur

Find the full post on the SCORE Women’s Success Blog
You can also check out our blogroll down on the right-hand side.

What sites do you find helpful? Let us know in a comment below.

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