Brent and Patrice Curvey’s “Coaches’ Kolaches:” Bringing a Taste of Texas to the Midwest

Flashback to years before Brent and Patrice Curvey became business owners. Brent was a freshman college football player who was feeling homesick for one of his favorite foods. Brent grew up in Houston, Texas. When he came to Ames, Iowa in 2003 to attend Iowa State University and play college football for the Cyclones, he was disappointed to discover that one of his favorite foods, kolaches, from his hometown couldn’t be found in his new college town.

Kolaches are a type of pastry that originated in the Czech Republic, but are also popular in Texas. They contain sweet bread and savory spiced meats, or sweet fruit preserves. They’re a sort-of-breakfast sandwich that can also make a filling, delicious lunch or dessert. But unlike in Houston, Brent couldn’t find a single kolache to be had in the bakeries of Ames.

Fast forward a few years. Brent went on to become a star defensive tackle at Iowa State, where his nickname was “Big Play” Curvey. Brent was slightly smaller for a defensive lineman. But, he had tenacity, a strong work ethic, and the strategic smarts for recognizing patterns. He put himself in the best position for success.

Moving On and Opening Up

Brent graduated from Iowa State in 2007. He went on to play professional football in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers for part of a season. For two years after, he played in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, where he won a Grey Cup championship ring in 2007.

Brent ended up moving back to Iowa, where he met his wife Patrice in 2009. He went on to coach football for the Iowa Barnstormers and for Grand View University in Des Moines. And in autumn of 2017, Brent and Patrice Curvey opened a business of their own, called “Coaches’ Kolaches,” selling their own homemade recipes of Brent’s favorite hometown food from Texas.

Sausage KolachesIn honor of Black History Month, we are spotlighting a series of Black-owned small businesses and sharing their success stories. We talked with Brent Curvey about his journey to entrepreneurship and how life lessons from football have helped him along the way.

Find Inspiration in Your Roots

Brent and his wife developed the idea for Coaches’ Kolaches based on Brent’s freshman-year memories of feeling homesick for his favorite pastries.

“It all started from me missing kolaches,” Brent said. “Back in 2003 when I came to Iowa State, kolaches were something from home that I wanted, to help me not be homesick, and I was curious to see that no one here had kolaches. My wife is a great cook, she cooks a lot, and a few years ago I asked her if we could figure out how to make some kolaches of our own.”

Brent and his wife worked together for 6-8 months to brainstorm and taste-test with different kolache ingredients and dough recipes, trying to find the right blend of flavors and textures.

I would take a notepad to work, she’d have a notepad at home, we would jot down our ideas, we would change up different ingredients and try new things,” Brent said. “And over time, we got the recipe right! And I realized, wow these are better than the kolaches I had growing up. So we just started building from there.”

Start Marketing to Your “Inner Circle”

Brent and Patrice Curvey opened their Coaches’ Kolaches storefront in October 2017 in Clive, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. They’ve built up a strong reputation for their business, starting by spreading the word among their local networks of friends, contacts and social media followers. Even without a big budget for advertising, sometimes a small business can be successful by marketing to the owners’ inner circle of people who already know them well.

“My wife is from Des Moines, and she knew a lot of people here and is just a really popular person in her social circles,” Brent said. “I was a locally known football player and coach, so I had some following on Twitter, and Facebook, and I would just start posting about our business, ‘Hey, come out and visit Big Play. Come see our new place.'”

The Curveys’ business was also able to get some media coverage from local TV news stations and local newspapers. Brent and his wife also catered some events with their kolaches. This was based on who they knew and where they had worked in their careers. “I was able to get in at Grand View University and did some small events. The word continued to spread from there,” Brent said.

Entrepreneurship Lessons from Football

Football is a physically demanding game, but it’s also a complex, mentally challenging game that requires a lot of advance preparation, self-discipline and intuition. Brent has discovered that there are some surprising ways that football prepared him for life as an entrepreneur. Football helped him learn the values of resilience and objectivity to stay mentally focused, upbeat, and strong in the face of obstacles.

“I’m honestly grateful for my background, playing football in college and professionally, because it allows me to understand even on those tough days in business, when a lot of money isn’t coming in but money’s going out – it’s like football, you have to stay disciplined, you have to keep going headfirst, no matter what,” Brent said. “You’re not going to make a big play in every game. But stay disciplined. Good things will come if you continue to stay where you need to be.”

Entrepreneurs and professional athletes have another aspect in common: they tend to be incredibly hard workers who are constantly looking for ways to improve their performance.

“The work ethic that I learned from football is huge, and maybe the biggest thing that I learned from football is how to ‘grade’ myself,” Brent said. “You watch film in football and study your opponent, study yourself, see what you can do better – that’s something I’m good at, and it matters as an entrepreneur, is having that ability to self-assess and make changes to help the business grow.”

Proud to Be a Black Entrepreneur

Brent and his wife love being business owners. They created a wonderful community grown around their business. “I would love to see more Black entrepreneurs, and more than anything I would love more people in the community to support each other,” Brent said. “There are lots of ways to help your friends’ businesses succeed. Even if you can’t come buy a kolache right now, share my posts on social media, help spread the word.”

His advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs? Don’t be afraid. There are risks of starting a business, but the rewards can be life-changing. “The first step is the hardest,” Brent said. “We’ve been doing this for more than 3 years, we started experimenting with recipes out of our own house. I’m so thankful we decided to start this business. It’s been great for our family, we’re meeting people from all over the community, and it renews and restores your energy based on the nice things people are saying about your business. If you want to start a business, take that chance. You don’t know where it will take you.”

 

Follow Brent and Patrice Curvey and Coaches’ Kolaches on Twitter (@CoachesKolaches), Instagram y Facebook. And if you’re in the Des Moines area, stop by and say “Hello”!

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5 razones clave para pronosticar su flujo de efectivo

Proyectar su flujo de efectivo puede ayudarlo a planificar para el futuro, evitar déficits inesperados e incluso calificar para un préstamo para pequeñas empresas.

Muchos propietarios de pequeñas empresas demasiado extendidos están cansados del análisis del flujo de efectivo. Los "análisis" de cualquier tipo suenan difíciles, y ¿quién tiene el tiempo o la energía para hacer proyecciones futuras? Más importante aún, ¿por qué molestarse en pronosticar su flujo de efectivo?

Tenga en cuenta que el pobre flujo de efectivo es La razón número uno por la cual las pequeñas empresas fracasan.. Un alarmante 82% de las empresas fracasan debido a problemas de flujo de efectivo. ¿Convencido de que no tiene que preocuparse porque su negocio es rentable? Piensa otra vez. Las compañías rentables fracasan todo el tiempo por la sencilla razón de que se quedan sin efectivo.

Más allá de mantener sus puertas abiertas, pronosticar su flujo de efectivo puede eliminar las conjeturas de a dónde se dirige. Tener una buena idea de su dirección puede ayudarlo a tomar decisiones comerciales más inteligentes. Un poco de planificación hace mucho, y no tiene que ser difícil.

Estos días, herramientas intuitivas en línea puede hacer el trabajo duro por usted, generando automáticamente proyecciones de flujo de efectivo basadas en sus transacciones pasadas y su historial financiero. No se requieren hojas de cálculo.

Existen innumerables beneficios al pronosticar su flujo de efectivo, desde evitar caídas en lo negativo hasta planificar para el crecimiento. Considere estas cinco formas en que las proyecciones de flujo de efectivo pueden mejorar su negocio.

Evitar los déficits

Un déficit inesperado puede ser paralizante, y puede tardar meses (si no más) en recuperarse. El flujo de efectivo negativo puede incrementarse si no realiza un seguimiento constante del efectivo que entra y sale. Afortunadamente, los déficits son a menudo evitables con un poco de previsión.

Projecting your cash flow will help you identify — and plan for — market swings, seasonal fluctuations and other business patterns that can lead to unpredictable cash flow. Forecasting can even help you visualize cash flow trends with the help of automatically generated charts and graphs.

Optimizar el tiempo de las cuentas por pagar y por cobrar

En un nivel más granular, muchos problemas de flujo de efectivo evitables a menudo son una cuestión de tiempo. El tiempo de demora significativo entre la facturación a sus clientes o el envío de productos y el pago puede causar una carga innecesaria en su flujo de efectivo.

Las proyecciones de flujo de efectivo que se basan en su historial financiero pueden ayudarlo a anticipar cuándo los clientes le pagarán. Esto le permite escalonar o ajustar de otra manera los pagos salientes a sus proveedores en consecuencia. A su vez, esto puede evitar que te sumerjas en el rojo. Y lo mantiene fuera de la incómoda posición de no poder pagar a sus proveedores o, lo que es peor, a sus empleados.

Demuestre que puede pagar el préstamo que solicitó

 Cuando solicita un préstamo para pequeñas empresas, los prestamistas analizarán su historial de flujo de efectivo en un intento de responder una pregunta principal: ¿Puede este prestatario devolver el préstamo que está solicitando?

Pedir un préstamo de cualquier monto sin mostrar su plan para devolverlo es una buena manera de aterrizar en la pila de rechazo. Esto es especialmente cierto si su flujo de efectivo actual no cubrirá claramente todos sus gastos operativos regulares, más el pago de su préstamo.

Si se encuentra en esta situación, las proyecciones de flujo de efectivo pueden ayudar a fortalecer su caso al mostrarle al prestamista exactamente cómo planea usar sus fondos para llegar a un lugar donde pueda realizar pagos de préstamos fácilmente. Este tipo de pronóstico le permite entregar una hoja de ruta que puede inculcar a un prestamista la confianza que necesita para aprobar su préstamo.

Anticipe el impacto de los próximos cambios

¿Su negocio planea comprar nuevos equipos? ¿Lanzar un nuevo producto? Las proyecciones de flujo de efectivo le permiten obtener una imagen completa del efecto dominó que estos tipos de cambios tendrán en su flujo de efectivo.

Cuando sus finanzas están sincronizadas con FinsyncLas proyecciones de flujos de efectivo se generan automáticamente en función de las facturas futuras, las facturas y la nómina. Luego, puede crear escenarios de "qué pasaría si", como comprar un equipo nuevo. El pronóstico le muestra cómo el costo afectará su balance final. También puede mostrar el aumento potencial de los ingresos generados por la nueva máquina.

Plan para el crecimiento futuro

De la misma manera, las proyecciones de flujo de efectivo pueden ayudarlo a planificar el crecimiento y expansión futuros. Ya sea que esté expandiendo su equipo con nuevos empleados y necesite tener en cuenta el aumento de los costos de nómina, o aumentar la producción para mantenerse al día con el aumento de las ventas, las proyecciones futuras lo ayudarán a ver exactamente a dónde se dirige y cómo llegará allí.

El pronóstico también es una excelente herramienta para establecer objetivos que lo ayudará a planificar los pasos financieros que su empresa necesita para alcanzar sus objetivos. Hay poder en las proyecciones de flujo de efectivo y la perspectiva que pueden proporcionarle a su negocio. Afortunadamente, esta ventaja competitiva viene con poco esfuerzo cuando deja el análisis a las sofisticadas herramientas en línea de hoy.

 

Post invitado por Finsync


Do You Want to Boost Your Revenue? Try Working on Your Elevator Pitch

A good elevator pitch, either on your website or in person, can help convert customers. A bad pitch can lose them. And it isn’t easy. Just ask James Lawrence, whose company makes advance software system that ensures drone operators stay in compliance with the ever-changing rules and regulations for their airborne devices. “The question was how to winnow that down to a big idea I could present in two minutes that would resonate with people who know nothing about my product,” he says en una entrevista con la revista inc.

Transmitir el sueño de su vida a un extraño, que podría tener un interés fugaz en lo que está diciendo, en un par de minutos, o unas pocas palabras en línea, puede ser un desafío lleno de presión. Aquí hay cinco pasos para crear un lanzamiento de elevador que mantiene la atención de la gente y puede ganar a los clientes e inversores.

Abierto fuerte.

Su línea o título de apertura debe captar la atención del oyente y dejarlos con ganas de más. La experta en pequeños negocios Alyssa Gregory da este ejemplo: ¿Alguna vez se sintió retenido por falta de tiempo y deseó poder clonarse para poder hacer todo, cuando quiera hacerlo, de la forma en que lo quiere hacer? "Si tu reacción es, cuéntame más, Es un lanzamiento ganador.

Cambie su punto de vista. 

Understandably, a lot of people begin their elevator pitch with “I.” But, a better beginning starts with: “You.” Explain the problem you’re addressing and the benefit you offer from the listener’s POV. As Fast Company lo pone: En lugar de decir abiertamente: "Soy un contador", diga: "¿Sabes cómo todos están interesados en maximizar la cantidad de dinero que tienen cuando llega el momento de hablar con el Tío Sam en abril? Eso es lo que ayudo a mis clientes a hacer. Mi nombre es Peter Smith, soy un contador ".

Crea unas pocas versiones. 

En lugar de decir robóticamente el mismo tono de ascensor a todos, tenga algunas versiones preparadas para diferentes situaciones. "Mantenga esa primera frase igual, pero use cinco historias diferentes de éxito para ilustrar cinco razones diferentes por las que los clientes le pagan dinero" dice la asociacion americana de gestion

Deletrea el siguiente paso. 

Un paso de ascensor no debe terminar entre los pisos. Deje que la persona con la que está hablando sepa lo que quiere a continuación, ya sea una venta u otro objetivo.

Pruébate. 

Incluso los actores más hábiles ensayan y escuchan a su director. Practica tu lanzamiento frente a tus amigos y pregunta su opinión. "Lo que puede parecer claro en tu mente puede parecer un enrevesado, prolongado o fragmentado para un observador externo". dice Consultora Lauren Katen. En línea, prueba diferentes idiomas y mide los resultados.

 

Un paso de ascensor es una herramienta poderosa, pero mitad de los propietarios de pequeñas empresas no tienen uno listo. Y eso puede mantener a un negocio atrapado en la planta baja en lugar de correr hacia el ático.


Determining a Small Business Owner Salary

Determining your small business owner salary can be complicated. But, it’s not a big obstacle if you go about it carefully. The central dilemma–as we have noted elsewhere–is that if you “over-compensate yourself, you can put undue pressure on yourself and the business could suffer.” On the other hand, by undercompensating yourself, “you may be unable to give your business a fighting chance.”

To overcome this obstacle, here are key points and action steps to consider:

Focus on profits, not revenue.

Revenue is the money your business derives from sales. But, it’s not the same as profit. Before you see any profit, the income you collect from sales must go to paying your employees, your taxes, overhead expenses and fixed costs.

Therefore, a percentage of profits is the best rule of thumb to follow when determining your salary. According to NFIB, an actual salary figure should be “based on a percentage of profits over the past 2 to 3 years,” not “based solely on projections for the upcoming year or years,” even if you have contractual assurances of business yet to come.

Make sure you still set aside the right percentage of business earnings for:

  • A cash reserve (or emergency fund) account
  • Estimated tax expenses
  • Paying off debts
  • Funds to go back into the business for operating costs, fixed expenses, marketing expenditures, etc.

You can funnel what’s left over after paying for these business expenses into your own small business owner salary. NFIB adds that “most owners of profitable small businesses don’t take out more than 50 percent of profits for themselves.”

Get a sense of what other small business owners pay themselves.

It takes a bit of research, yes. But, finding out what owners of comparable enterprises pay themselves can help you determine your own salary requirements.

On salary comparison sites such as Payscale or Glassdoor, you can look at positions similar to your own. It might help you grasp what’s “market appropriate” in these areas. Often times, the same information is available in industry trade magazines or similar materials.

Keep in mind: Business owners on the east and west coasts generally pay themselves at a higher rate than their counterparts in the south or the Midwest regions.

Consider market-based wages.

Ask yourself, what would you pay another person with the same amount of skill and experience you possess? Other relevant factors include range of expertise, business contacts and overall scope of knowledge.

The salary figure you determine, based on these factors, gives you at the very least a ballpark estimate of what’s appropriate to pay yourself.

Be sure to pay yourself on a regular schedule.

Once you’ve determined what your salary should be, don’t look at the process as something you do from time to time, as profits permit. Instead, according to the accounting software firm Xero, establish payments “for you and your employees … and stick to them.” Following this system, “you’ll get used to the amount of money you receive and won’t have to worry about taking out occasional large lump sums.”

In other words, decide upon an annual salary and then divide that amount by 12 (for monthly payments). Don’t deviate from that figure. Additionally, check in with your accountant to make sure this amount matches what the IRS considers “reasonable compensation” for running a trade or business.

Many factors go into determining the appropriate small business owner salary that’s right for you. Remember that if your business is in the delicate startup phase, you’ll probably have to survive on the bare minimum. This is because all available funds must sink into the business enterprise in order to stay afloat. As time passes and when profits become tangible, then it’s time to start looking at how best to ensure you receive an appropriate base salary.

And for good reason–you’ve earned it!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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How to Get Funding That is Best Fit for Your Small Business

Small businesses (SMBs) are at the core of the US economy. They are the largest employer in almost every sector.  Despite this, it has been proven to be extremely difficult for business owners to find favorable financing to sustain and grow their business.  In fact, many have found that it is far more difficult to finance their operation than it is to run it.

How to choose the right funding option

Recently, a business owner asked me about which type of financing was best for him.  The obvious answer is: the type of financing for which you will qualify.  This will set the tone for your capital search. Obviously, the primary goal is to find the type of financing that offers you the most money for the lowest cost and the longest repayment terms – with the fewest downsides. The reality is that this set of terms will vary wildly depending upon the credit quality of the applicant.  A problem for many SMB owners is that they develop a preconceived notion of what their financing SHOULD look like as opposed to what it will REALLY look like based on the credit quality of the borrower.

Lo primero que debe hacer al iniciar su búsqueda de financiamiento es hacerse una pregunta: Soy financiable? Este es un término amplio que indica si puede ir a su banco y obtener un préstamo o financiamiento de equipo bajo los términos tradicionales o con el beneficio de una Garantía de la SBA. En mis años de experiencia en finanzas comerciales y como propietario de PYMES, puedo decir que la gran mayoría de las PYMES NO son financiables, incluso cuando han escuchado a su banquero decir que podrían obtener un préstamo. Los términos para el financiamiento tradicional rara vez se presentan de manera realista durante el proceso de solicitud y la mayoría de las solicitudes se rechazan porque el prestatario no puede cumplir con los requisitos de la institución crediticia.

Be objective

Lo segundo que debe hacer es recordar ser objetivo y determinar exactamente cuáles son sus posibilidades de aprobación en varios productos y con los diferentes tipos de prestamistas. Debe aceptar que existe un diferencial de precios de riesgo con diferentes tipos de financiamiento y con diferentes prestamistas. Cuanto más fáciles sean los términos de crédito y más rápido, generalmente, la originación delimita una financiación más cara. En muchos casos, vale la pena el costo, ya que otros prestamistas no lo financiarían a cualquier costo.

La tercera cosa que debe hacer es obtener tantas ofertas como sea posible: no se sienta insultado por una oferta de financiamiento, incluso si es oneroso y parece indignante. Siempre se puede pasar. Al evaluar las ofertas, debe recordar que se aplica la Regla de oro de los préstamos: "¡El que tiene el oro - rige!"

Obtaining small business funding that’s best for you

El entendimiento básico de esta guía es que usted ya es un negocio operativo. Las empresas nuevas son una discusión completamente diferente. Entonces, si ha estado en el negocio por al menos 1 año, ¡siga leyendo!

Las opciones de financiamiento de las PYMES cubren un amplio espectro: desde bancos tradicionales, cooperativas de crédito y prestamistas institucionales no bancarios hasta prestamistas no tradicionales, compañías financieras alternativas, plataformas de financiación colectiva y amigos y familiares.

Los bancos, las cooperativas de crédito y la SBA pueden ofrecer tasas más bajas y plazos más largos, pero los obstáculos para obtener uno de estos préstamos son considerables. En el otro extremo del espectro se encuentran compañías financieras alternativas, empresas de alquiler de equipos e incluso sus tarjetas de crédito personales, que comparten todas las mismas características. Son mucho más caros que el financiamiento bancario tradicional, pero están fácilmente disponibles y son mucho más fáciles de obtener aprobaciones. El verdadero valor del dinero está en su disponibilidad. ¿De qué sirve un préstamo del 6% de su banco si no puede obtener la aprobación? Por otro lado, si usted es una empresa de alta calidad crediticia, ¿por qué debería abreviarse para obtener un alto costo de financiamiento?

Veamos si podemos ayudarlo a manejar sus expectativas y brindarle información sobre la perspectiva de los prestamistas.

What do the banks and the SBA want, so I can get funding?

I have spent many years around bankers and have asked a number of them what qualifications are needed for them to consider lending to an SMB owner.  They always offer the obvious response: everyone has their own unique circumstances underwritten at application. But almost every banker I have spoken with talks about the “Five C’s of Credit”.  This is a basic set of criteria that they all use when evaluating a company for a loan:

Capital

Los prestamistas quieren ver que tienes piel en el juego. ¿Cuánto capital duro has puesto en el negocio? No les importa el sudor, quieren ver el dinero. La mayoría de los prestamistas quieren ver entre el 10 y el 40% del capital total en el negocio proveniente de los propietarios. Quieren ver que hay activos duros y blandos de maquinaria, equipo, bienes raíces y algunos incluso considerarán tecnología de TI patentada. Quieren compartir el riesgo con usted, y su inversión asegura que usted también sufrirá si el negocio fracasa.

Collateral 

These lenders are “risk averse”. They want to know that if, for some reason, your business fails to pay back the loan that they can attach assets and liquidate them to offset the debt. This is one of the reasons that they want to see meaningful assets in your company before lending to you. Not all loans require collateral, but if you want favorable terms, you should expect it.  In the case of SBA Guarantees, you will be required to pledge not only the business assets, but all owners holding 20% or more of the business must pledge their personal assets as well.  Homes, cars, cash, jewelry – everything. If you can’t pay back the loan, you could lose everything.

Capacidad 

A lender must have a realistic expectation that the borrower does indeed have the capability to repay. Lenders rely on numerous metrics and factors in determining your “capacity”. First among these is your personal credit score. Even though this would be a business loan, the main driver of an SMBs success is the owner. If you don’t pay your creditors for personal debt, it is a reasonable conclusion that you won’t pay your business debt. To get to the next step with a bank you will need a strong FICO of over 700 with no liens or judgments. The bank will also look to your current vendors for your payment history. Most lenders look for 1.25x or higher, which relates to the big driver of cash flow of the business. If you have cash, then they know you can pay back.

Conditions 

This looks at the reason for the loan and if the bank feels that you will be successful in reaching your goals. The bankers will look at everything from the economic conditions in general to those in your local area. The industry you are in is also a strong indicator of success. The “SIC code” of your business provides risk assessments for your business – and it can work with you or against you. Most importantly, the bank wants to understand the purpose of the loan and if the proceeds will help you grow the business as opposed to adding to your debt load. You will need to provide an explanation for the amount you need, why you needed it, details on how you plan to spend it and the benefits you expect to gain from the loan.

Character 

Este es un factor difícil de evaluar, pero el banco básicamente está tratando de determinar si usted es de buen carácter y se puede confiar en su desempeño. Esto puede ser muy subjetivo y, a menudo, lo determinan los banqueros con los que habla al preparar su solicitud. Quieren saber lo más posible sobre la persona detrás del negocio. ¿Eres un novato o un profesional experimentado en tu campo? ¿Cuál es su fondo? ¿Tuviste logros previos que deberían conocer? ¿Tiene referencias profesionales sólidas de proveedores, clientes o proveedores de crédito? ¿Tiene defectos que podrían influir en el proceso de toma de decisiones, como arrestos, DWI o problemas de impuestos anteriores?

What types of lenders do I have to choose from for funding?

Large Commercial Banks

These are the big guys. You know them – JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America. These banks all have assets greater than $10 Billion and are large bureaucratic machines. While the largest banks account for about 40% of SMB loans, they do very little lending to Mom and Pop businesses or those that fall within the agriculture industry. Community banks are far more active in those sectors. Large banks are better for bigger, more established companies who seek over $250k in loans. This is their true minimum lending floor – it’s simply not worth their time processing smaller loans.

Mid-Tier Regional Banks

Estos bancos con múltiples sucursales tienen una gran cantidad de poder local y son más receptivos a las necesidades de sus clientes SMB. Tienen bases de activos sólidas pero practican las mismas prácticas de suscripción estrictas que los bancos más grandes. Su conocimiento local hace que sea mucho más fácil comunicarse con ellos y muchos son socios fuertes de la SBA que pueden ser de gran ayuda.

Small Community Banks and Credit Unions 

Estas son las instituciones de base para que trabajen las verdaderas PYMES. Todavía creen en el valor de conocer a sus clientes y su comunidad, y trabajan arduamente para desarrollar fuerza en todos. Aquí es donde se originan la mayoría de los préstamos agrícolas de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, a los bancos comunitarios más pequeños les resulta difícil competir y cierran a un ritmo regular. Esto requiere que sean más conservadores, lo que puede influir en el resultado de su solicitud de préstamo. Solo el 40-45% de sus solicitudes de préstamo son aprobadas.

Instituciones financieras no bancarias

Access to these lenders is usually limited to higher growth specialty finance. These groups rarely, if ever, consider Main Street businesses. Large firms like CIT or Apollo will provide multi-unit franchise financing for restaurant or hotel chains, but not loans to single unit operators. These groups include private equity firms, hedge funds, family offices and high net worth individuals. You must be well prepared with strong documentation and the ability to pitch your deal and defend your representations with facts. This is not for financial amateurs or novices.

Alternative Funding Companies 

Over the past 15 years, this has been the fastest growing sector for SMBs to access capital. Factoring companies, merchant cash advance, FinTech online lenders and equipment leasing firms all fall into this category. Most of these companies lend from banks and take on the credit risk for the performance of their clients in return for higher fees.  The main attractions are speed, less documentation and higher approval rates. They will often look for a blanket UCC security agreement over the assets of the company, but do not require the hard-collateral pledges that banks and SBA require to provide loans. Their cost of capital is high because they take considerably more risk to provide financing than banks do.

Crowdfunding 

Crowdfunding appears to have key advantages of being quick and easy to raise funding, but it really isn’t as easy as it appears. First, you need to determine the type of crowdfunding you wish to pursue. Rewards based platforms solicit donations for worthy projects or companies in return for “rewards” that you provide. Debt and equity crowdfunding involves high levels of transparency and reporting as well as time consumption and expense. Many Crowdfunding platforms have specific rules governing time limits and funding goals. If you don’t reach your goal after a specified time, you lose. Or you may encounter an “all or nothing” funding policy, precluding you from accessing capital raised beneath your goal. Some users have been disappointed to realize that often the success of the campaign revolves around their social network. This means that you are really doing a “friends and family” round – but incurring fees.

Corredores independientes 

There has been a dramatic explosion in the number of independent brokers/“finance advisors” who are marketing loans, lines of credit, invoice factoring, receivables financing, cash advances, equipment leasing and other funding products to the SMB community. Some brokers are reputable and can be extremely beneficial in expediting the process of finding financing. They can look at the overall parameters and know where to place the application for fastest approval. On the other hand, there are bad players who are only interested in their own enrichment. Some ask for retainers up front and fail to deliver. Buyer beware. Know who you are dealing with. Look for complaints and ask a lot of questions before trusting your financial information to an unknown outsider.

Friends and Family 

Este es uno de los lugares más comunes donde los propietarios de PYMES buscan capital semilla o capital de trabajo general. Si bien esto puede ofrecer pocos obstáculos para la financiación, ya que se trata de un prestamista familiar y de apoyo, el incumplimiento puede afectar negativamente su relación con estas personas por el resto de su vida.

Personal Savings, Home Equity and Credit Cards 

Before draining your savings, your business plan should reflect cash reserves for funding to carry both you and your business through hard times. Most businesses have ups and downs. The failure to plan for this can be catastrophic. The use of funds from a Home Equity loan or Line of Credit can be a very useful tool. Interest rates are relatively low and the money is not being lent on the qualifications of your business. It is being given to you against the equity value of your home. The downside is that if your business fails, you could lose your home as well. Also, some SMB owners feel it is reasonable to finance their business with their personal credit cards. This can cost upwards of 29% compounded, which is a formula for disaster.

Landlords and Real Estate Developers 

If you have a brick and mortar business and you need to make improvements to the space you are occupying, landlords and developers often provide “tenant improvement allowances” or TIAs for businesses to enhance the overall building. This is usually paid back in the form of additional rent or larger escalations in annual increases. This can be a good way to access capital for betterment and improvements. But sometimes, the escalations exceed the business’s ability to pay.

Wholesalers, Suppliers, Purveyors 

Cada vez que un comerciante / proveedor le extiende los términos para pagar sus suministros, está recibiendo un préstamo de facto. Esto le permite pagar por los bienes después de haber tenido la oportunidad de venderlos a una tasa marcada. También ha habido casos en que los proveedores primarios han hecho préstamos directos o inversiones en pequeñas y medianas empresas que son importantes para su negocio.

Government Business Development Agencies 

Many state and local economic development agencies offer loan programs and grants. These opportunities are often very specific in their requirements, including formal financial statements and reporting. Most have extremely favorable rates.

Ejecutando el Proceso

The search for financing should be run as an organized process. Your first decision should be to target the groups to which you should be submitting applications for financing.  In this process of elimination, the lenders will decide to approve or decline your application. You then must decide to accept an approved offer or continue to shop – or if declined, where to apply next.

Reasons for funding rejection

While each lender or equity investor assesses applications differently, there are numerous reasons why an application for funding is rejected. Below are a few key reasons:

  • Mala calidad crediticia de los propietarios y / o negocios.
  • Estados financieros mal preparados o inexactos
  • La industria es un riesgo de crédito pobre
  • Geografía / Región tiene Desafíos Económicos
  • Documentación insuficiente o inconsistente
  • Flujo de efectivo negativo / ventas insuficientes
  • Gravámenes fiscales y juicios
  • Información negativa no divulgada sobre el negocio o los directores
  • Estacionalidad de negocios / ventas inestabilidad

 It can best to aim high and hope for approval, then work your way down the waterfall. It may be labor intensive, but could provide you with lower cost, longer term and more favorable options. Your goal is to find the best deal you can, but be realistic and objective

Combining a number of approved options into a blended structure can give you a better cost structure. Smaller but lower cost personal or commercial loans can be supplemented with higher cost cash advances and equipment leases. This can give a blended rate that is much lower than the more expensive products.

Do your homework and be realistic in your expectations. Take the application process seriously and be as meticulous as you can, so you can get the best funding for your small business.


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.

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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.

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