Top Houston Small Business Services

Are you looking to grow your small business in Houston, Texas? If so, consider the following Houston small business services–many of which are free of costs–to make your business thrive.

SCORE Houston

PUNTUACIÓN (Service Corp of Retired Executives), a leading, nation-wide organization, offers various Houston small business services. They have helped small business owners for over 50 years, and is a resource partner of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SCORE Association consists of a large network of expert business counselors and mentors. They are specifically trained to offer services to small business owners. Services provide assistance and support in many areas, such as business planning, marketing and financial strategies. This is all at no cost. Mentoring can be conducted face-to-face or remotely and it is always confidential. Additionally, SCORE hosts free or low-cost online workshops on a variety of business topics.

The Office of Business Opportunity Solutions Center

The Houston-based Office of Business Opportunity Solutions Center (OBOSC) provides no-cost services to help small business owners thrive. On-site staff assists with questions regarding permits, licenses, fee schedules and regulations –city, county, state and federal based. Questions also pertain to the operations of Houston area businesses. OBOSC also offers one-on-one business counseling with SCORE business advisors, as well as business workshops and notary services.

OBOSC works closely with the SBA, University of Houston Small Business Development Center, the Harris County Clerk, the Texas State Comptroller, the Minority Business Enterprise Center and other agencies. The center has an extensive referral network of trade organizations, business incubators and educational institutions.

Greater Houston Partnership

los Greater Houston Partnership consists of over 1,000 companies and organizations dedicated to the success of Houston’s positive growth. It’s essentially a meeting place for business people who want to make Houston the best place to work and build a business. Paid members have access to online tools, digital subscriptions and other resources to help make better business decisions. Members receive detailed data and analysis. Information is about the Houston economy, news on economic development and company relocations and expansions. The Greater Houston Partnership also provides networking and business development opportunities with Houston’s business leaders through special partnership events, programs and councils.

Houston Business Development, Inc.

Houston Business Development, Inc. (HBDI) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation established in 1986 by the City of Houston. HBDI provides affordable and flexible small business loans, and Houston small business services designed to enhance small business growth. The organization has a Business Technology Center, a 160,000 square-foot mixed-use business complex, offering administrative services and affordable office space. They also have a Business Information Center (BIC) that provides a comprehensive resource library with databases, computers with commercial software, as well as periodicals to support small business expansion. The BIC is available to the public free of charge. Additionally, experienced professionals from SCORE, HBDI and other agencies are readily available to conduct classes covering a variety of topics, including how to get a small business loan and managing cash flow.

Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance – Houston Women’s Business Center

The Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) offers Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) — a national network of nearly 100 educational centers, established by the SBA, to prepare women small business owners for success. Yes, the organization’s main objective is to assist women. But, they also help men who want to start and own a business.

los Houston WBC offers assistance or training in many areas of small business. This includes loan application and loan package preparation, web development and leadership and management training. Additionally, the Houston WBC provides free consultation services to help small business owners with variety of topics. These topics range from financial management to HR issues to marketing.

With the support and resources from these Houston small business services, your small business will be on the right track.


Free NYC Small Business Services That Give Empire State Entrepreneurs a Competitive Advantage

Did you know that small businesses make up more than 99% of all businesses in New York City–and employ half its public workforce? With such an economic impact, so many NYC small business services are in place to help entrepreneurs accelerate their enterprises.

Although launching and growing a small business can sometimes feel overwhelming, confusing or isolating, support is never far away. Here are some of the best free–and low-cost–NYC small business services available to Empire State entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Free Advisory Services

Do you need help devising your business plan or decoding regulatory requirements? Luckily, a myriad of NYC small business services exist in every borough. They will pair you with experts and mentors who will help you navigate roadblocks. Thousands of small business owners seek advice every year.

Bronx: The Bronx Small Business Development Center offers free small business services ranging from marketing to regulatory training.

Brooklyn: Brooklyn’s Small Business Development Center offers both online and in-person training. They help with everything from funding to financial literacy. Plus, they have an impressive amount of live networking events.

Manhattan: From financing and trade to marketing and government procurement, the Small Business Development Center at Pace University has a host of free resources and events available for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Queens: The Queens Economic Development Corporation offers workshops, training events, one-on-one-coaching, and networking events free of charge.

Staten Island: The Staten Island Small Business Development Center exists to help both aspiring and established small business owners navigate regulatory requirements, identify viable funding sources and understand e-commerce, among other free services.

City-Wide: NYC Small Business Services Centers exist across all five boroughs. They offer free advice and resources to help small businesses start and grow. You can even take free business courses online! A three-minute application helps pair you with the curriculum best fit for your needs.

Free Meeting Spaces

Are you looking for a spot to host an important business meeting or collaborate with your cofounders? The following locations are available at no cost to entrepreneurs:

  1. The Freelancers Union invites entrepreneurs and freelancers to work from Freelancers Hub, its DUMBO co-working space up to eight days each month at no cost. Their hours are 9-5, Monday – Friday.
  2. The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Building Library (SIBL) allows entrepreneurs to reserve meeting rooms en línea. You can do so for up to six people and for two-hour time blocks, Monday through Saturday.

Free Resources By Classification

New York has one of the most diverse populations in the country. Services exist to help give small business owners of every background a competitive advantage. If you’re a minority, woman, immigrant, or veteran, you will find enormous value in the services tailored to you. The New York State Department of Labor offers a curated list of links on its website.

The important thing to remember is: you’re not alone! Help for entrepreneurs and small business owners looking for NYC small business services is close by. There are dedicated mentors and volunteers who want to help you succeed. They know you have the power to create meaningful impact in your community. Asking for help could mean the difference in your business stalling or skyrocketing. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take the first step!

Do you need even more resources? The Kapitus Blog has hundreds of resources. It can help you navigate everything from marketing and technology to operations and human resources. Bookmark this page and be sure to return often for more advice and information geared specifically to New York City small business owners.


Unique Small Business Marketing Success Tips from Carla Sue Greeting Cards & Gifts

It might sound surprising in the age of mobile devices, instant messaging and constant contact with friends, family and acquaintances via social media, but business is booming for the greeting card industry. Younger consumers tend to buy greeting cards with clever messages and personalizations. They give cards to their loved ones on traditional holidays, and on other “card-worthy” occasions as well. Consumers today tend to lean towards unique small business marketing.

One small business that embraces this growing trend for stylish, creative greeting cards is Carla Sue Greeting Cards & Gifts, based in Houston, Texas. Founder Carla Lyles creates unique greeting cards and gifts with beautiful art and sassy messages. Messages center on themes of empowerment, self-care, and positive representation. For example, one of her company’s birthday cards says “Eat Cake Queen,” and a Mother’s Day card says “Ain’t a Woman Alive That Can Take My Momma’s Place.” Carla’s branding es the very definition of unique small business marketing.

Carla’s products are already being sold in retail stores throughout Houston and in five other states. Her company was recently featured by Vistaprint as part of their Micro Main Street celebration of small businesses.

Carla shares with us her success story and unique small business marketing tips. She speaks about building a thriving business and a memorable brand.

Be Real on Social Media

Con nearly 5,000 followers, Carla is very active on Instagram. Carla found success by experimenting with social media, and by engaging with her audience personally. “Giving social media a chance was a big thing for me, because I wasn’t big on social media prior to starting my business, and I had no clue what [to do] at all,” Carla said. “But I quickly recognized that it was a very powerful marketing tool. Just by putting my products on social media, getting immediate reactions from people, it really [showed me], people are watching!”

Carla tried out different types of content to engage with people on Instagram. She tested a weekly live video series of her drinking wine, chatting with her followers. “I started making little skits, little shows[. I called one] ‘Wind Down Wednesday’ where I would drink wine and talk to people on Instagram Live, and I gained a lot of followers, it grew into a thing!”

The lesson? Don’t be afraid to be real, be vulnerable and maybe even a bit irreverent. Businesses with real, authentic personality are often more likely to create lasting connections with their customers.

“People want to see the face behind the brand, see the person behind the product,” Carla said. “Social media and marketing that way helped me discover, wow, people want to know who I am? And so I [began] sharing more about my life, how I got started, I gained a committed little following. It shocked me! It was really wild. And now I have [direct purchasing set up on] Instagram and Facebook, they don’t have to even go to my website anymore.”

Branch Out of Your Comfort Zone

Vistaprint recently featured Carla’s company in their Micro Main Street program during Pride Week in St. Louis. “This was a pop-up event that Vistaprint [did] in different cities with different themes[. They] provided 3 small businesses with a great opportunity,” Carla said. “They flew us out to St. Louis for the Pride parade, [helping] us with great marketing materials, [helping] me brand my business in a way that it hadn’t been before. It was great for me to meet my customers in a totally different state.”

Carla had a strong customer base in her hometown of Houston and in greater Texas. But, branching out into a new state and regional market was outside of her comfort zone. With her clever, creative brand and a well-designed pop-up shop, she had a great experience connecting with the customers in St. Louis.

Carla says she “was a little worried about how the customers would receive [her] greeting cards[. Some] of them have some profanity[. Some] of them are a little crass. But [they were] really well received! People [loved seeing her] products, just walking in to [the] pop-up space, with the marketing materials, postcards with [her] information. [She remembers first getting the] email from Vistaprint, [and thinking it was a joke]! They [talked] about flying [her] out to a different city, helping [construct] a pop-up space. But [in doing her] research, [she] realized [it] was legit.”

Go Deeper Into Your Niche Market

Carla Sue Greeting Cards & Gifts are designed with a unique voice that tends to resonate with younger audiences, especially with Black women and communities who are often not being reached or represented by conventional greeting cards. Sometimes it’s better to speak authentically to a niche audience. Sometimes it’s better to build an enthusiastic following with your community, than trying to reach “everyone.”

“I’m speaking directly to the people who feel unseen,” Carla Lyles said. “Most of my products are in a conversation-based style of language that my audience, especially Millennials, understand. I know how it feels to feel like an unseen person, I am part of a disenfranchised group [and] I relate to these people, they’re here. I started Carla Sue to help heal myself. [When I went] through a serious bout of depression, [I began] making things because I’m a creative, I made things that I related to, but then by putting it out in the world on social media, I recognized that I’m not the only one! And it made me want to speak louder for these people and be the voice for the voiceless via greeting cards. When you meet me in real life or see me on social media, I have a holistic vision of what my brand is and what my story is.”

Be True to Your Community

Carla Lyles grew up in Houston and her business has strong roots in senses of belonging and home. She sells a variety of T-shirts that say “Keep Houston Dope”. The city’s recovery from catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey inspired this t-shirt.

During the past two years, Carla Sue Greeting Cards & Gifts has sold more than 2,000 “Keep Houston Dope” shirts, with 50% of the proceeds donated to local flood relief efforts.

“Being in Houston means everything to me,” Carla said. “A business mentor once told me, ‘If you have the respect and love of your city, you can go anywhere.’ I love Houston so much, I want the love of my city first before anywhere else.”

Carla Lyles offers a winning example of how to build a relatable brand for your business. Do so with unique small business marketing based on the values of community, creativity and generosity. Follow her company on Instagram at @CarlaSueHouston or go shop for creative gifts and greeting cards at CarlaSueHouston.com.


Helping Cats and Dogs Find New Homes – With “Rock Star” Marketing!

Have you ever wondered what it takes to super-charge the publicity and marketing for your business? What if you could enlist the help of actual rock stars? Well that’s what Jme (“Jamie”) Thomas, founder of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, decided to do! Her business is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Redmond, Washington. They improve the lives of animals, rescue and rehabilitate animals in need and promote responsible pet ownership. Motley Zoo (the name was inspired by the band, Mötley Crüe) is a rock and roll themed animal rescue organization. They provide “rock star treatment” for dogs, cats and other animals that need care, training and new homes.

With marketing and outreach programming, Jme Thomas and the Motley Zoo team found a niche marketing tactic. They invite touring rock stars and musicians to pose for photos with pets that are up for adoption! The pets often receive names based on the musicians’ best-known songs. This is just part of their unique “rock star marketing.” Motley Zoo is a successful presence for animals and animal lovers in the Seattle area and beyond.

Jme Thomas and Motley Zoo have an inspiring story full of valuable lessons and insights for other business owners.

Get Creative With Your Brand

Motley Zoo is a unique and aggressively positioned name. It brings to mind the image of a heavy metal rock ‘n roll home for cats and dogs! This was a bold, and kind of risky, strategy by Jme Thomas. Some people might have been reluctant to name their business something that was so different. But, the unconventional brand strategy paid off!

“Picking that name alone defied the usual types of ‘cutesy’ names most rescues have, and we took it to new levels with our marketing and branding, including opening a dog daycare facility called ‘Rock Star Treatment,'” Jme Thomas said. “This had never been done before on this scale. We are pioneers with a lot of firsts.”

The lesson: don’t be afraid to be unique with your brand, business name, and other aspects of your marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s better to create a brand that stands out, rather than fitting in.

Carve Out a Niche for Your Products

Motley Zoo finds new homes for animals up for adoption. Sometimes it’s hard to find new homes for some animals. There tends to be more animals than available homes. So, Motley Zoo developed a unique “product marketing” approach: they started naming their adoptable animals after rock stars.

“We started naming the adoptable animals after musicians and bands as an additional way to play on the music theme and give each animal more of an identity and advantage to finding a new home,” Jme said.

When prospective pet owners are looking for animals to adopt, it can give an animal a competitive edge to have a memorable name. Wouldn’t you notice a cat or dog named after your favorite band or song?

Find Strategic Marketing Partners

Jme Thomas got a great idea one night that literally came to her in a dream: what if her adoptable animals took meet-and-greet photos with actual rock stars?

“One night I had a dream that we brought the cats we’d named after the band Rancid, to a concert to actually meet Rancid. In my dream, the band thought it was so cool, we took pictures and the cats got adopted quickly,” Jme said. “I woke up from the dream and was telling my husband and laughing at how ridiculous that was. Then I just stopped laughing and said, ‘I am going to do that!’ He was like, ‘What, bring kittens to a concert?’ And I said yes! He looked at me like I was crazy, smiled and went about his day.”

But Jme’s dream of rock stars meeting kittens actually came true!

Turning a Dream into Reality

“I showed up at the back door of the Rancid show with kittens and everything went just like my dream. The band invited me in, we talked about the rescue and took pics with the cats…and they put us on the guest list! When I called my husband and told him I’d just spent the last 45 minutes with his all-time favorite band, he was speechless! And he encouraged me to do more with this idea. He said, ‘let’s see what you can do now, because Snoop Dogg is coming to town soon, then Slayer…”

Jme met other famous musicians and bands. They are all thrilled to pose backstage for some publicity photos with the adoptable pets. When Jme met Snoop Dogg, they posed for photos with two kittens named Gin and Juice; both cats were immediately adopted.

Jme Thomas and the Motley Zoo pets had meet-and-greets with other musicians including Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Slayer, and ZZ Top.

“We have met with many big names and even befriended many of our favorite bands through multiple meetings,” Jme said. “The best thing is that this concept has since been emulated and it seems many rescues are now bringing animals to meet artists all over the country! I won’t say we are the absolute first in the history of the world to do this, but we are definitely the first to make it a regular part of our strategy, paving the way for others to follow.”

Thinking Outside of the Box: Creativity Pays Off

The lesson: look for strategic partnerships to promote your business. It’s not as glamorous as going backstage with rock stars. But, there are likely organizations in your community that share the same mission. What if you partnered with a nonprofit for a fundraiser? Or teamed up with other businesses for a special “market day” promotion or created a special event with live entertainment, hosted and sponsored by your business? Even if you’re not a rock star, there are lots of fun ways to elevate your brand while creating a vibrant community around your business.

Learn more about Motley Zoo herey check out their available adoptable pets! Or if you’d like to help the animals by making a cash donation to this nonprofit organization, you can donate to Motley Zoo here!


Resources to Support Women Business Owners and Address Top Challenges

Women small business owners face several challenges when operating a business. Main challenges include access to financial capital, human capital and networks. The good news is that there are organizations that support women business owners. Here’s a look at the key issues and how certain organizations, specifically designed for women, help address them.

Access to Financial Capital

Access to financial capital is integral to business owners. It’s necessary to grow revenue and expand businesses. This is especially important for women business owners. Women business owners get almost 50 percent less funding than their male counterparts, according to CNBC. And unfortunately, access to financial capital for women has declined over time.

However, there are resources for women to help fund their businesses. For instance, the Administración de Pequeños Negocios (SBA) has loan programs that directly target women and minority owned businesses as well as a division dedicated to women called the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). The OWBO program provides business training, counseling, federal contracts, and access to credit and capital.

The OWBO also oversees Centros de Negocios para Mujeres (WBCs). There are over 100 WBCs across the country providing women support to overcome obstacles to business success. The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) is a national non-profit (501c3) organization, and represents WBC’s and women business owners. WBCs offer counseling, training and mentoring on a variety of business topics. They also offer assistance with accessing microloans, traditional loans and Préstamos de la sba.

Access to Human Capital

Access to human capital or training for women small business owners to learn new skills is also difficult to obtain. However, the Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Empresarias (NAWBO), which represents over 10 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., provides a member-exclusive NAWBO Institute Virtual Platform. This helps facilitate communication, virtual networking, best practice sharing and education for women business owners.

NAWBO has also teamed with ADP, a global provider of cloud-based Human Capital Management solutions, in order to continue to offer human resources, payroll, talent, time, tax and benefits administration. This helps women-owned businesses reach their potential.

Access to Networks

Having the access to networks is an important factor for small business success. A proper network should not only include personal support, but also support from outside resources. Encouragement and networking opportunities for small businesses can be from peer groups, mastermind groups and mentors, as well as other small businesses and strategic partnerships. However, access to networking is often a challenge for women-led businesses. Thankfully, though, there are resources.

For example, the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) is the nation’s largest association that helps support women business owners. NAFE offers a platform for women to create a network with other women executives, professionals and small business owners that are dedicated in supporting women in business. Additionally, women can learn about attending local events to expand their networks even further.

Overall, with the right resources, women small business owners can tackle common obstacles and make their businesses thrive.


2020 Economy: Make Sure Your Business is Ready

Thinking about creating a new year business plan for 2020? If so, consider spending a little extra time to make three instead. That way, you can operate your business with the ability to accelerate and slow down to reach your destination as soon as possible, while avoiding an accident. That’s why three plans are better than one.

No need to worry, though. It won’t take three times as long as writing a single new year business plan. The second and third plans are simple modifications of your basic “medium speed” plan. The foundational plan is based on your best guess of what you can expect business conditions to be in the coming year. You can downshift or upshift to the other two plans a few months into 2020 if things are turning out not as well as you had expected, or, ideally, even better.

What Are Your Sales Drivers?

If you usually create a business plan by extrapolating current year revenue and expense trends and put them into the next year’s budget, it’s time to sharpen your pencil. What are the main drivers of your sales?

First, you’ll need to think about how your business is affected by various factors. Identify the most important ones. Then, try to estimate the impact each has on your business performance.

Depending upon the kind of business you’re in, you’re likely to find that some of the following “macro” factors impact your annual revenue results:

  • The overall strength of the local and / or national economy
  • The population growth rate in your community, particularly any influx of the kind of new residents who are your best sales prospects
  • Consumer and commercial interest rates
  • Labor market conditions impacting your ability to find and keep good employees on board affordably

Add to that set of revenue forecast variables any factors unique to your business, including:

  • The planned introduction of new products and services, or discontinuation of any current ones
  • The anticipated impact of any new sales and marketing strategy, including planned opening of new business locations
  • Projected efficiency gains, whether through new technology, processes or staff training, enabling an increase in your output of products or services at competitive prices

Setting An Expense Budget

The other side of the budgeting part of creating a new year business plan is expenses. Those are usually easier to predict than revenue. Most expense categories correlate to your current fixed expenses, such as rent and equipment lease payments, or are variable expenses (e.g. raw materials) driven by your revenue projections.

There’s more to a business plan than a budget, of course. But, you can’t have one without the other. It helps to start thinking of ways to grow or strengthen your business. After, give those ideas a reality check through the budgeting process.

There’s another audience to keep in mind: potential lenders and investors. Finding a supportive lender might be essential to fulfilling your base level plan.

While lenders rely heavily on your financial track record, balance sheet and possible business collateral or personal asset pledges when evaluating a loan proposal, they also want to know how you intend to use the loan proceeds. In general, the more effort you have put into the plan, the better your chances of getting the loan approved. Or the lower the interest rate you would otherwise be charged.

Creating a business roadmap for the coming year that’s compatible with the three-plan strategy involves giving careful thought to the timing-specific planned expenditures. You need to think carefully about the relationship between the revenue and related expense categories on a timeline basis.

This is where the three-speed triple business planning strategy comes into the picture. Think of it as advance planning for alternative business scenarios, relying on revenue benchmarks along the way.


Festivus Brews: How the Beer Industry is Embracing this Non-Holiday

The holiday season is diverse with traditions from many religions and cultures. One somewhat new tradition, Festivus, isn’t really a holiday, at all. It’s gaining steam in the beer community, though. From special recipes to all-out parties, the beer industry adapted Festivus into their marketing plans in unique ways.

What is Festivus?

December 23rd marks the annual secular celebration, Festivus. It was created as a way to push back against all of the commercialism that other holidays bring. While not widely known until a 1997 Seinfeld episode brought it into the popular mainstream, Festivus’ simplicity and theme attracts many fans. Must-have’s for the “non-holiday” include an undecorated metal pole instead of a lavish tree and the “airing of grievances.”

The beer industry responds

Part of Festivus’ allure is how it’s presented as a way for everyone to get together and reject commercialism, no matter your background or religion. Beer found its way into the celebration quite easily. Beer fits in at any event, even one marked by a jovial pushing back at the norm. Sitting around drinking the perfect pale ale with friends sounds like perfection. It’s even given many brewers ideas for concocting recipes for the occasion. Several small-batch breweries offer themed drinks in celebration of the holiday. The brewery, Northern Brewer, sells a DIY Festivus Miracle Holiday Ale Extract Beer Recipe Kit, complete with yeast, fizz drops and canned wort (which is optional).

Festivus beers and ales come in bottles, cans, and on-tap. One of the breweries seeing success with their Festivus brew is Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio. Sam McNulty, one of the co-founders, reveals how they came up with the seasonal brew.

“When brewmaster Andy Tveekrem was perfecting the recipe, and we tried the beer for the first time, we knew at first sip that this was going to be a winning brew. But how to set it apart from all the other Christmas beers crowding the shelves and draft towers? My business partner, Mike Foran, is a massive Seinfeld fan and came up with the idea of naming it for the ‘rest of us.”

That’s how their Festivus Holiday Ale was born.

More than ale

This holiday can be more than creating the perfect brew. Market Garden Brewery takes the holiday further. They throw a big party on December 23rd, complete with the airing of grievances, feats of strengths, and a Festivus pole. This is an addition to their Festivus-themed beer recipe, which gained overwhelming popularity over the years.

“Each year, we’ve had to add brewing capacity just to keep up with holiday ale sales increases. Every year we brew more than we think we’ll sell, but every year we’ve run out of it too early,” says McNulty.

Tips for others considering a Festivus marketing plan

It’s tempting to latch onto the idea of Festivus as your next big holiday. But, it’s important that small businesses understand its true essence. It’s not really about purchasing anything at all. After Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the lead-up to Christmas sales, most consumers are tired from shopping.

However, Festivus offers a chance for consumers to get away from the noise, kick back, and celebrate all things simple. It’s a break in the chaos before Christmas and New Year’s. For many, it’s a little silly, too. Festivus is for Seinfeld fans, those who don’t celebrate any traditional holidays, or anyone who just needs to complain and enjoy a new kind of ale. It gives people the space to air their grievances and have fun while doing so. In a world where not everything is always merry and bright, Festivus brings that joy for us when we need it most.


5 Best Movies About Small Business Owners

Becoming a small business owner is never easy. Many often look to external sources for inspiration and motivation to continue along their path. Movies about small business always engage, encourage and inspire viewers. Cinematography uniquely captures life and business lessons in an easy-to-digest format, making it a great source of inspiration. For some of the best movies about small business, explore these 5 titles that share important entrepreneurial lessons.

What Women Want (2000)

In this heartfelt romantic comedy, Mel Gibson plays Nick Marshall, an arrogant advertising executive at a small marketing firm in Chicago. Although the plot is unrealistic–a hairdryer accident in a bathtub miraculously enables him to hear women’s inner thoughts–the movie provides an entertaining look at gender differences. It also displays some tangible lessons about the cut-throat marketing world and the importance of understanding your target audience.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

This is the story of sports agent, Jerry Maguire, who leaves a major talent agency after putting his morals before business. Armed only with his industry experience, his former secretary from the agency and a single capricious client, Maguire begins rebuilding his career. He starts his own independent agency and learns about the hardships that many small business owners face. Overall, he encounters the challenges of running and managing a business while simultaneously fostering close personal relationships.

Joy (2015)

Based on the true story of Joy Mangano, this film depicts a headstrong inventor’s rise to fame at QVC. Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence, comes from a disadvantaged background. Despite the odds, she pursues her ambitions. Joy faces challenges in financing, production, patent law and negotiations. Family jeopardizes what little success she has achieved to that point. She uses drive and determination to overcome those obstacles and goes on to become one of the biggest success stories in QVC history.

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

This charming story follows Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan). She’s the owner and operator of a family-run bookstore called “The Shop Around the Corner.” The store is threatened when retail giant Fox Books opens a superstore down the street. Kathleen ultimately decides to close the store, which her mother first opened. Despite the painful experience, closing a business is necessary to move on to better things.

Chef (2014)

This is a comedy-drama starring Jon Favreau  as chef Carl Casper. Carl is stuck under a controlling restaurant owner, Riva. Although he yearns for more creative dishes, Riva pressures Carl to cook without flavor and creativity. After a scathing review from a restaurant critic, Carl decides to branch out on his own. He starts making innovative dishes in a a traveling food truck. As the movie progresses, we see that freedom of expression and taking risks are essential for creating memorable, unique experiences.


How This “Boring” Business Got Great Results From Content Marketing…By Trying Something Different

Do you ever feel like your business is too “boring” to try creative marketing? Even if you’re in an industry that is rather technical; if you’re normally by-the-books, or behind-the-scenes; even if your business works in ways that don’t always mesh well with the most exciting and innovative marketing campaigns; there are still some surprising ways to get creative with your business marketing.

The home heating and air conditioning business isn’t typically the most creative industry for digital marketing. How can such a straightforward business come up with clever marketing ideas or a flashy social media presence? But one HVAC company, Irish Heating and Air Conditioning–based in California’s Central Valley–found a way to generate big marketing success by doing something creative.

Irish Heating and Air Conditioning

Ryyan Murphy is the owner of Irish Heating and Air Conditioning. He worked with Contractor Calls, a digital marketing agency for contractors and home service businesses, on a new strategy to generate website traffic. Ryyan didn’t publish the usual industry-related blog posts about heating and air conditioning. They focused their content marketing strategy on creatively responding to the needs and seasonal interests of the local community in Modesto, California.

“Engagement for HVAC-related content is typically fairly low, especially during the off season between summer and winter,” Ryyan said. “We have been trying to expand our business into the Modesto market over the past year, so our digital marketing team decided to try something new that would be locally focused and Halloween related.”

Halloween Fun for the Community

Irish Heating and Air Conditioning created and published a special guide on their website for “The Best Family Friendly Halloween Events in Modesto (2019).” They knew that people were looking for ideas for family Halloween events in Modesto, and they provided a piece of content to help answer that local need on Google search results.

“The other search results for ‘the best family friendly Halloween events in Modesto’ were overall low quality, we decided to develop and publish a Halloween events guide that would boost Irish Heating and Air Conditioning’s engagement with local parents,” said Joe Goldstein, Director of SEO & Operations for Contractor Calls. “Many of the local parents are also local homeowners and potential HVAC customers in a very broad sense.”

The Halloween events guide is helpful, detailed and locally specific. It lists locations for pumpkin farms, trick or treating events, haunted houses and more. They even incorporated photos and videos. Anyone in Modesto, California could use this guide as a resource for fun Halloween ideas for their family.

Irish Heating and Air Conditioning achieved a month-over-month website traffic increase of 57.29 percent during the autumn, which is usually slow.

What are some lessons that other “boring” businesses can take away from this success story?

Make Content for Your Community

Irish Heating and Air Conditioning are experts in HVAC services, not experts in “Halloween”. That doesn’t matter! They got great results from publishing community-focused content that didn’t even involve the company’s services. They created trust and goodwill by helping people in Modesto get good information about family-friendly Halloween activities.

Go Hyperlocal

Ryyan and his team saw an opportunity where high-traffic search keywords in their local target market were underserved. They created a new piece of content to own that space. How many other search keywords are currently up for grabs in your local market? Selling to a specific geographic area, opens up opportunities for your website to serve your community with hyperfocused content.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Lots of HVAC company owners might be reluctant to get too “creative” with their content marketing. People want their HVAC service providers to be smart, capable, and on time – not wild and wacky. It’s possible, though, for a “boring” business to succeed by trying something different.

“A lot of people in this industry might push back on an idea that is outside of their usual service offerings,” said Joe Goldstein. “But we have a particularly good rapport with Ryyan Murphy at Irish Heating and Air Conditioning, and he trusts us and he was open to trying this new approach.”

Cross-Promote Your Local Content

There are a variety of ways to cross-promote your “creative” content. For future opportunities, Joe Goldstein recommends using other strategies with community-focused, seasonal content.

“The traffic increase from this Halloween guide was great, and we also got strong engagement with it on Facebook,” Joe Goldstein said. “To get even bigger results next time, we would probably try featuring the guide more heavily on other landing pages, reaching out to the local Halloween attractions sooner and asking them to share our guide on their social channels, and encouraging more conversation in the comments. In the future, we will also include more than one major promotion in the landing page to turn a wider variety of casual visitors into leads.”

Once your business has published your locally-focused, community-oriented content, look for ways to get local link-building and press mentions. People love to read about what’s happening in their local area; make your website part of the conversation – even if it’s not immediately related to your business or industry.

Be Generous

Business owners love involving themselves in their communities by donating, volunteering and contributing to the community in other ways. Why not take that same attitude of community spirit with your content marketing? There are many ways to be generous with your creative content marketing. You can solve problems and helps make people’s lives better…even if it’s not “about” your business at all.

“People often respond better to content when they can’t immediately see how the business will benefit, when they don’t feel like they’re being sold something,” Joe Goldstein said.

The last line invites people to contact Irish Heating and Air Conditioning if they need furnace repair. But other than that, there’s no mention of the business at all; it’s just a helpful website article to show people some ideas for how to have a happier Halloween.

“We’re in business to help people, solve problems, and serve our communities, and it’s been fun to see how our content marketing can accomplish that, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with HVAC services,” said Ryyan Murphy. “We hope to keep trying more of these creative content marketing ideas in the future.”

Want to learn more about creative marketing ideas for “boring” businesses? Check out this article from Contractor Calls: “Local Content: The Key to Content Marketing in a Boring Industry.”


What Can Your Business Learn About Marketing from a Japanese Martial Arts Dojo?

Josephine Fan is co-owner of Long Island Aikikai, a martial arts dojo in Bay Shore, New York, that teaches the Japanese martial art of Aikido. Aikido involves various techniques for close combat self-defense; it’s featured in movies like the John Wick trilogy. It has strong visual components that make it ideal for videos.

Last year, Josephine started to focus on expanding her dojo’s social media presence. She started out with only 64 followers on Instagram, and in less than year they now have 14,600 followers – all from organic content, not any paid promotion or purchased followers. Josephine shared videos and photos of their dojo’s Aikido martial arts. She built up a significant online presence for her business.

“We built this following just from consistently posting cool and interesting videos, and we became more and more well known in the community,” Josephine said. “We have had students come in saying they were interested in taking lessons at our dojo because of what they saw on social media.”

Josephine Fan has also used the lessons from her company’s success story to write a social media marketing guide for dojos – and the lessons are the same for many businesses.

What can you learn from Long Island Aikikai, besides “self-defense?”

Embrace the Visual Element

Since Aikido is so visually impactful, it’s interesting that Josephine Fan got inspiration from fashion Instagrams.

“One of my good friends is a fashion blogger with more than 60,000 Instagram followers and she actually gave me the idea and the starting tips,” Josephine said. “I knew we needed to get onto the social media marketing train since technology is evolving so fast.”

Long Island Aikikai’s social media videos do a great job of visually capturing the essence of aikido, often in a minute or less. The company’s social media presence makes the martial art look much more real and accessible. People who’re interested but hesitant to sign up might see these videos and reevaluate.

How can your business maximize the visual elements of what you offer? If you run a restaurant, try posting well-plated, stylishly composed food photography. If you run a brick-and-mortar retail store, think about which products look best on camera. Think about how to capture the visual appeal of your store with favorable lighting and camera angles. Consider hiring a professional photographer or videographer to capture some good shots of your business. Good visuals are more important than ever, especially on Instagram.

Be Consistent

Another lesson that Josephine learned is that it’s important to keep a consistent schedule for social media. Post every day, or on a regular schedule.

Don’t get discouraged if results aren’t immediate. Trial and error is necessary before you figure out which social media strategies work best for your business.

“To be honest, the first couple of weeks felt like hitting my head against a brick wall,” Josephine said. “I couldn’t tell if what I was doing was working because we would only get a follower here and there. Then when I got the ‘formula’ down, the followers began to cascade.”

And don’t feel like you have to manage your business’s social media all by yourself. There are a lot of great marketing apps available now, many of them for free or at low cost, that can help you schedule your social media posts in advance, track results, make visually appealing images to share, and more.

Ignore the Trolls

Negativity might come your way when you start out. There are unfortunately many angry people on social media who just want to criticize your business and your social media posts.

Josephine learned to shut them out and focus on growing her audience of enthusiastic fans.

“I realized that I had to throw away the previous hangups about getting criticisms on the videos via social media troll comments, and just do it no matter what,” Josephine said. “That was a difficult hurdle to cross but once I did, it was very liberating to not care so much about those one or two aggressive comments and just keep focusing on the positive.”

Engage with the people who care about your business, and ignore the rest.

Find the Right “Formula” for Social Media Success

There is no one right answer for “how to get more followers on social media,” because it all depends on your business, your brand, your target market, and your particular skills and savvy for how to create and share content. Certain times of day or days of the week might work best for your business or industry, depending on which types of customers you’re trying to reach.

Josephine Fan found a successful formula for Instagram marketing, which she describes in her social media marketing guide:

  • Post 1-4 posts per day, spaced out evenly. This means that if you post 4 times a day, make sure to space the posts 6 hours apart. Don’t post too frequently.
  • Prepare a week’s worth of content at a time. Social media marketing apps make it easy to prepare and pre-schedule a week’s worth of posts. This way, you can focus on social media one day and run your business the others.
  • Don’t skip a day – you’ll lose followers. People love consistency. When Josephine took a few weeks off of posting during the holidays, the number of new followers per post decreased dramatically. She went from 60 followers per post to 1-2 followers per post. “I noticed that if I stopped posting for even a few days, I had to build up the momentum again later,” Josephine said.

Some types of content might result in massive numbers of new shares and new followers. Others might not get any results. However, if you keep trying and testing, you can find a comfortable and repeatable formula for social media success. Long Island Aikikai is a great example.

Learn more about Long Island Aikikai and check out their awesome martial arts videos on Instagram at @liaikikai!


Do Your New Year Small Business Plans Include Doing Less?

As 2019 is coming to an end, do you find yourself making new year small business plans? 2020 is bound to be a busy year for business, but that doesn’t mean you need to add to your to-do list. In fact, you might find yourself accomplishing more by doing less. Here’s what four small business owners plan on stopping in the year ahead.

Trying to Do Everything Yourself

Many small business owners try to get everything done themselves. For solopreneurs, it may seem like there’s no other choice. Small business owners with small teams might find it easier to complete a task solo instead of training their employees on how to complete an assignment. However, wearing all of the hats can lead to burnout. By focusing on their personal power, small business owners can spend more time moving their business forward.

Suzi Whitford, CEO of Start A Mom Blog, agrees and says, “I plan to stop doing the things that I can outsource, such as proofreading, formatting posts, creating promotional images, and basic customer service. By doing this, it will free up time for me to focus on serving my students and customers in the best way possible.”

Forcing Business Tactics

There’s many great courses, programs and training for small business owners. It can feel overwhelming, though, sorting through potential sales and business tactics to find what works best for your business. Yet, it seems like every time you go online you’re inundated with advertisements about how to do this-and-that in order to grow a successful business. When you’re making new year small business plans, remember this: not all business advice is universal.

“I intend to stop over-planning and let things flow,” says life coach Victoria James. “I’m bringing on ease and choosing paths of the least resistance. I’m inviting natural business which feels good, rather than chasing it in a way that’s out of alignment with me and my values.”

new year plans for small business Photo by Felipe Furtado

Photo by Felipe Furtado

Indulging in the Comparison Trap

Do you often find yourself comparing your business to your competitors and peers? It’s easy to judge your growth based on what you see others doing. But, the problem is that you don’t see the whole story. Is your competitor De Verdad outperforming you? Does the social media highlight reel accurately reflect their business doings? No one truly knows whether another person or business is struggling. Don’t let their successes weigh you down.

“In 2020, I’d like to stop comparing myself to other small business owners, specifically mompreneurs,” says Priya Virmani, a personal stylist and founder of Privee by Priya. She continues, “It’s silly to beat yourself up based on another’s seeming success.”

Stressing About Social Media

As a small business owner, you understand the importance of social media. You also know how stressful it can feel to continuously post quality content and reply to your audience, all while doing your normal work. When you’re working on your new year small business plans, take a moment to reflect on the time you dedicate to social media, and whether or not you’re seeing a return on that time investment.

Writer Tara Bosler says, “What I plan to stop in 2020: obsessing about any social media content. If I have something to post, I’ll post. If not, oh well!”

Virmani agrees and plans to change up her social media approach in the new year. She says, “I’d like to defy the classic Facebook group model that ultimately sucks an audience in just to sell them a program. I’d like to have fun with Instagram instead. It’s so crazy to always feel like we should be milking every touch point.”

When you’re working on your new year small business plans, make sure to ask yourself, “what am I doing now that isn’t serving me, or what can I do less of so I can be more productive in other areas?” Eliminating some of your to-do list will make space for something better.

 


Fulfill Your American Made Holiday Wishes

Once you’ve put away those Thanksgiving leftovers, it suddenly hits you: The holidays are De Verdad underway. For most of us that means annual traditions, gift giving and keeping cozy as winter settles in.

Oh, and shopping.

According to the National Retail Federation, you’ll be spending around $1,048 this holiday season. This includes $659 on gifts, $227 on food and decorations. It leaves $162 for that little something extra for yourself or your family.

And thanks to the creativity of our neighbors across this country, an American made holiday season is just a handful of clicks away.

Annual traditions

Whether you like it real (18%, according to the American Christmas Tree Association) or artificial (82%), a big part of your Christmas tree’s charm is its ornaments. To add St. Nicholas themed metal ornaments to your boughs this Christmas, check out Wendell August Forge.

This year, Hanukkah runs from sundown on December 22 through sundown on December 30. Consider a hand-made menorah from Blackthorne Forge as the centerpiece of your family’s celebration.

Kwanzaa is celebrated each year from December 26 through January 1. To replenish your Kinara, Africa Imports offers an American-made set of three green, three red, and one black candles.

And, holiday gatherings wouldn’t be complete without some football. Wilson Sporting Goodsis an essential stop before kicking off your backyard scrimmage in American made holiday style.

Gift-giving

If a bicycle is on someone’s wish list this year, a number of American-assembled options can help you make that happen. From Dirt King USA’s tricycles to Seven Cycles’ custom mountain, racing, and endurance bikes, you’ll find a new ride for any level biker.

If you want your loved one to think of you in a pampering way all year long, consider a giving a soap subscription. The Grecian Soap Company and Dr. Squatch Soap Co . offer two different takes on the natural approach to getting clean.

We know your generosity stretches beyond your human bonds at this time of year. For the favorite canine in your life, consider a dog bedfrom West Paw Design, and if your kitty digs squeezing into small boxes—compression therapy is definitely a thing—pick up a cardboard-free cat snuggler from Whisker+Box [km12] .

And hey, if that last gift is proving incredibly elusive, we know the feeling. So head over to The White House Gift Shop to peruse an extensive assortment of products made in the USA.

Keeping cozy

Winter months mean chilly days and colder nights, even if you live in the southern reaches of the United States. Smartwool [km14] offers a variety of cozy sock styles to keep your feet warm around the clock in any time zone, .

For a layer of warmth on the sofa or in the bedroom, check out the colorful spectrum of hand- and machine-made quilts carried by QuiltBroker.

If the weather outside is frequently frightful, you’ll be hard-pressed to find footwear as reliably warm and weather resistant as L.L.Bean’s boots, one of many products manufactured in the USA by the Maine-based company.

Sometimes, you might need a little warming from the inside. For a spin on your favorite spirit, a hand-made whiskey barrel from UncommonGoods [km17] allows for some in-home aging.

The 2019 Holidays will come and go in the blink of an eye. American-made goods for an American-made holiday can help start traditions and bring festive memories that can last a lifetime.


es_ES
en_US es_ES