All Articles Tagged "small business"
According to a report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, 137 community banks used $2.1 billion from a special fund aimed at boosting lending to small businesses to repay their bailouts from the financial crisis.
Congress created the small-business lending fund in 2010 to encourage banks with less than $10 billion in assets to increase their lending to small businesses. “At a time of economic distress, the aim was to help small businesses get capital that had become difficult for them to obtain. The loan program charged the community banks lower interest rates if they used the money for loans to small businesses,” reports The Huffington Post.
Here is how the numbers break down: The Treasury Department was given permission to spend up to $30 billion on loans to small banks under the program. But only $4 billion was spent. Of that $4 billion, $2.7 billion was forwarded to 137 bailed-out banks. But instead of using the money to increase their small business lending, the banks used $2.1 billion of it to repay the higher-interest rescue aid they had received from the government—and it was all legal.
Under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the small-business lending fund “turned out to be little more than a TARP exit strategy,” Special Inspector General Christy Romero said in a statement. Under the law, the banks were allowed to use money from that program to repay their bailouts. “By repaying TARP funds, banks were able to escape limits on executive compensation and other restrictions” explains HuffPo.
The Treasury Department isn’t happy with the report and in fact has disputed the report’s findings. But, according to the Treasury, some of the bailed-out bank funds did go to small business lending. The department claims that the increase in small business lending was about 40 percent.
Can an entrepreneur ruin her own company? Yes. Many have—and many probably will in the future. Look at Martha Stewart, says USA Today. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, has lost money four years in a row under her leadership, reports the newspaper. Because business owners can sometimes lose focus, it is best to know when to step away in order for the company to survive.
“A CEO can tell it is time to leave when they have reached their limit in terms of ability and skills to lead the company. If the company is not growing as in increasing revenue over time than it is time to either bring in new leadership or leave the company all together. There is nothing wrong with bringing in someone to lead the company,” says Anastasia Valentine, CEO of business consultancy firm Sandbox an Idea to Launch Company.
According to Deborah A. Osgood, president of entrepreneurial education and coaching firm Knowledge Institute, companies go through various stages—one of which might include a time when the founders need to step away and turn the reigns over to someone else.
There are three phases that every business goes through: Panic, which represents the start-up phase where everything is chaotic, decisions are made on the fly and the CEO thrives and is good at being the center of attention. Phase two is the “people” phase where business growth demands begin to exceed the CEOs capacity and it’s now time to add staff. And phase three is the “process” phase where growth continues and a whole new set of challenges require more formal business systems and an expanded management hierarchy. Not all CEOs are good at nor welcome moving from one phase to the other. A CEO needs to leave as soon as she realizes either through self-awareness or poor business performance, she is no longer working at her peak performance.
It’s time to quit your company if you’ve hit the wall and are not sure and don’t have the skills to grow the company beyond what it has already achieved, says Valentine. Or when you have lost the original passion you had for the business when you started it. And, if the company is not profitable or no longer profitable.
It is important for CEOs to have an exist plan in place. “Most business owners do not plan for their exit so only 5% actually achieve the exit they worked so hard for,” notes Kerri Salls of This Way Out Group LLC, an exit strategy firm. Start an exit an exit plan as soon as possible especially if you are planning to sell your company. “The longer you wait, as sales slide, the lower value,” she says.
Just because you have started a company you might not be the best leader for the firm.“Many CEOs are ‘accidental’ in that they started the company so they believe they should lead it,” explains Valentine. “Not all founders have the necessary skills to grow a company beyond a certain point. When the company loses focus, stops generating year-over-year growth or where there is no or little motivation to continue… it’s time for the CEO to embark on something new.”
In a proposal that broadcasters said was a surprise, President Obama called for a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, up from the current $7.25. He justified the proposal by calling out the disgrace that it truly is when a person works all week and still makes less than a living wage. Of course, many workers and worker’s advocates support the move.
“But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year,” he said (transcript courtesy of PolicyMic). Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.”
The proposal would increase the minimum wage in stages through 2015. The last time there was a raise in the minimum wage was 2007, says CNN. The outlet quotes Bureau of Labor stats that put the number of people earning the minimum wage at 5.8 million, or about 5.2 percent, not counting workers like maids, who get a fixed weekly wage.
No sooner had the words left his mouth did economists and others begin the debate about whether this is a good idea. On its face, of course we want hard-working people to be in a more stable financial position. But some say that there are other considerations that could end up making the higher wage a negative.
“[E]mployer groups say that raising the federal minimum wage would cost jobs, and hiking state rates doesn’t help reduce poverty,” writes CNN. “Studies have projected a loss of at least 467,500 positions were the hourly rate to go up to $9.80, according to the Employment Policies Institute, which advocates for employers. The most recent boost meant that 114,000 fewer teens had jobs.” A previous bill to raise the minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014 stalled. The article says that if the minimum wage kept up with the cost of living, it would actually be $10.56 per hour.
That sentiment is seconded by The Wall Street Journal, which says that Republicans and business groups will oppose the pay hike. There are some who say that raising the minimum wage will increase spending by those earning more money. Others say it will lead to job cuts as employers lay off workers they can no longer afford. Still others say that if you’re trying to alleviate poverty, this will have a very limited impact, and will benefit higher-income earners in a kind of trickle-up effect.
“The White House wants to force wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes by eliminating tax breaks, and it is now calling for wage increases for poorer Americans,” writes the Journal. “Many Republicans oppose raising taxes and oppose raising the minimum wage, but they could face a test in their new public campaign to appeal to middle-class and low-income Americans.” The President was quick to point out that a minimum wage increase was also supported by Mitt Romney.
The effort to raise the minimum wage comes at a time when there are some signs of economic recovery — stock market highs and employers hiring — and there is a need to offer support to lift people out of poverty. The Journal says that the poverty rate in this country is at 15.9 percent, or 48.5 million in 2011. Reuters quotes some business owners and experts who say that it’ll actually put teenagers, immigrants, and those lacking skill out of work.
Those arguments in opposition bring up the bigger problem of education and creating a skilled workforce that can earn a living in this modern marketplace. That’s where other issues like universal pre-school, beefing up jobs in the energy sector, and making college more affordable become critical pieces of the entire puzzle.
Tax time is quickly approaching. For small businesses, the most important number might be 1099.
As you go through your paperwork and figure out if you owe or should get money back, small business owners may find that payroll taxes are a big determining factor.
“If you received a 1099 form, the IRS also received a 1099 with your income and tax information. Many people mistakenly believe if they did not receive a 1099, they don’t have to report the income they earned. This is a mistake that can cost dearly in penalties,” Black Enterprise warns.
In this article, C. Daniel Baker lays out what the 1099 is and how you can avoid running into trouble with the IRS. Are you an entrepreneur getting ready for April 15? Click through and read more about the 1099 at BlackEnterprise.com.
With all the talk about trillion dollar coins and the looping scribble scrabble that is the signature of President Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew, this interesting tidbit for small businesses has probably slipped through the cracks.
This week, the White House outlined what it’s calling a “detailed action plan” to bolster and encourage small business innovation in this country. Focused on startups, growing companies, and underserved markets, the White House is pushing Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals, bringing together the various government agencies in a coordinated effort to improve services and initiatives to benefit small businesses. And there’s now a measurement system in place to make sure the efforts are working. This is all meant to build upon the Startup America initiative, which was started back in 2011 with the goal of promoting small businesses and entrepreneurship across the country.
Among the items that are part of this whole small business promotion plan are BusinessUSA, a bank of services to better customer satisfaction and more inclusive government contracting, something we’re seeing more on the state and city level in places like Chicago and New York.
Small businesses face a slew of challenges to getting off the ground. Besides the cost of starting and running the business, attracting customers, and competition — from both big chains and other small companies — minority- and women-owned businesses also face hurdles tied to funding and outright discrimination. Entrepreneur also took a look at the ways in which the fiscal cliff deal will impact small business. The most pronounced is the end of the payroll tax break.
“While this isn’t specific to small businesses, the pattern is clear: Payroll-tax cuts stimulate job creation and payroll-tax increases discourage it,” the article says, adding expert commentary stating that the holiday created 300,000 jobs.
The other two items (also not really exclusive to small business) are the increased taxes on high earners, which impacts a small fraction of entrepreneurs, and the capital gains tax increase which, the article says, will negatively impact investing and equity financing. These two, it seems, don’t have nearly as much effect as the first might.
But the point of the White House initiatives is to provide an entry way for small businesses to plant a flag and get off the ground. Our advice to small business owners would be to follow the White House and the Small Business Administration on Twitter and Facebook to get updates on new programs. And visit these two websites regularly to find out what sorts of programs you qualify for. Oftentimes, states will also have small business programs that can provide assistance. The help is there, so take advantage of it.
Black businesses in New York City have received a much-needed boost. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council have removed various barriers for minority- and women-owned business enterprises by signing into law Introduction 911-A, which will expand city contracts.
This will help small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned firms, as the new law eliminates the $1 million cap on programs eligible for contracts set forth by Local Law 129 signed in 2005. That law was meant to boost opportunities for black and women-owned businesses. It also calls for increased city procurement contracts in areas of goods, professional services, construction, standard services, and architectural and engineering services.
This move is similar to efforts made in Chicago. As we reported in October, black businesses in the Windy City were awarded more city contracts in recent months — 21 percent this year up from just eight percent last year.
If the push in the Big Apple goes as expected, black businesses in the city should see a significant boost. According to a press release, the new law “is estimated to triple the total value of contracts from $433 million to a projected $2.2 billion.”
The city is also planning to track the effort to ensue that progress is being made. There will be a tracking system for contracts in order to weed out non-compliant M/WBE (minority and women business enterprise) firms. An accountability program, states the press release, will include mandatory meetings for agency leaders to assess progress on the M/WBE goals and efforts to increase participation.
The Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff , first VP of 100 Black Men and co-chair of The New Agenda, said in a press statement, “Local Law 911-A marks a bold step for the rights of minority- and women-owned businesses.”
Nationally, according to TheStreet.com, the government has missed its stated 23 percent goals for small business contracts, especially for women-owned companies, for the past six years. New legislation signed on the 3rd by President Obama hopes to boost that. If you’re a small business owner, check out the details for being considered in that story.
Last year after her first baby was born, Asharah Damore was looking for something to keep her creative juices flowing as well as make a little money while she stayed home with her newborn son. “Although this was a tremendous blessing I felt like I was losing my identity after about the six-month mark. I knew I didn’t want to go back to work but I wanted to make money doing something I enjoyed,” Damore explains to us.
So she turned to eBay. “I frequent the thrift stores and I would always see brand new or next to new items not in my size which I would pass [on] buying because I had no one to buy them for,” she says. “So I decided to start buying a few of those items too see if I could re-sell them on eBay.”
Damore found nearly immediate success, but the eBay format took time to master. “The first month was great and but it was hard to keep the momentum because on eBay keywords are very important and depending on how you list your items someone searching for what you have may or may not be able to find it,” Damore points out. “So you have to be creative on how title you listings.”
It’s not hard, however, to get started. First, you need to set up an account by registering on the website. “There’s no fee for listing items so long as you do not exceed 50 items per month; after that, the fee is nominal. In addition, once your item sells, you must pay eBay nine percent of the sale price, with a maximum fee of $250,” reports Forbes.
Ebay gives users two options on how to sell their products. The most common is the auction method. A seller establishes a baseline price (reserve), the length of auction and can even strike a deal, called “Buy it Now.” You can also lists items for sale at a set price with no bidding.
Now, you have opened a virtual business. Treat it as such and be professional in your approach, online language and dealings with customers. Forbes suggests picture your eBay business as a virtual storefront. “There are also websites, such as auctiva and The Seller Sourcebook, that provide thousands of templates based on a variety of categories. Pick one that works for you. Then be sure to categorize each item correctly so it can be easily found,” reports Forbes.
Unemployed? The SBA, Department of Labor Launch a Website to Help States, Job Creators, and Job Seekers
The White House has announced a new website, created by the Small Business Administration and the Department of Labor, that will help states create programs to aid companies seeking new staff members.
“On the website, you’ll find model legislation that your state can use to enact these programs, as well as a new online toolkit from the Small Business Administration, which offers courses and training on how to start a business,” the White House press release reports. “There are also courses on obtaining money for small businesses, entrepreneurship and business planning, entrepreneurial marketing, developing entrepreneurial work styles, as well as a host of other topics including accounting, marketing, legal facets, sales and taxes.”
Back in February 2012, President Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012, the first update to the unemployment insurance rules in 40 years. If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because of the push behind the small business component, which was discussed a lot during the election. But another key component is the Self-Employment Assistance Program, or SEAP, which helps individuals receiving unemployment benefits create a job for themselves.
SEAP includes a training program where unemployed individuals receive counseling and training to help them create a business. The program also provides grants for individuals to launch or grow a business. The government has proposed $35 million dollars to be distributed to all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Each state has a different set of requirements concerning who is eligible to participate. There are a few states, such as Texas, that have laws that put restrictions on the ways in which residents participe in these programs. So check with your state to learn more about this program and how it’s being implemented where you live. Not only is it a viable alternative for the present, it would also be a wise investment to avoid future layoffs. Many companies — and entire industries — have cut positions that will not be coming back. As a recent graduate, you may also find this option as a way to begin your career. Starting a business today has many different paths available.
As early as May 2012, five states began to implement this reform. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine, or Oregon they have active Self-Employment Assistance Programs and are ready to begin to give grants to their residents.
Vernetta R. Freeney is a Houston-based entrepreneur and award winning blogger. You can follow her @womengamechange.
As a small business in America in 2012, the potential for growth in revenue and brand awareness is increasing due to the deluge of interactive business tools like mobile applications. For example, we recently covered, the new Around the Way app, which directs users to black-owned businesses in their area. “For any small business listed, the app could be literally sending customers through the door,” we noted.
Small businesses that jump onto the mobile app bandwagon also hope to take advantage of the different ways that technology allows customers to interact with them and their products, from scanning product barcodes in stores to receiving more information to offering discounts and coupons on a consumer’s favorite products. This increasingly effective way to interact with businesses also increases the pressure for small businesses to create their own applications. But before you begin to step out into the complex world of mobile app creation, consider the implications of the process.
“For the most part, creating an app is not cheap, and it’s also not easy,” Jared Hendler, digital media strategist and executive creative director at PR firm MWW Group, says. In his role at MWW, Hendler oversees the company’s digital marketing/social media group and visual branding practice.
“The biggest disadvantages of small businesses looking to create a mobile app are the costs and maintenance of the app itself. You have to keep up with the updates of each operating system,” he says. Small businesses would have to manage the upkeep of an app within each of the leading mobile OS systems, Apple, Android and the latest OS to the mobile market, Windows 8.
“When you’re creating an app, you have to create for all these different screen sizes and make sure it’s going to work on all these different devices, whether it’s Nokia or Samsung or HTC. It’s challenging,” he adds.
Another aspect a small business owner must note before tackling the mobile app process is the time that must be considered to create and maintain a full mobile application.
“The challenge with small business owners is that they wear many hats: they put in long hours, they are the marketing person and the accountant, they’re doing inventory, they are doing a lot of different things, and they’ve got to allocate a specific amount of time doing digital and social,” Hendler says.
Sian Morson, founder/CEO of Kollective Mobile and Chief Technology Officer of Around The Way App, believes that small business owners could handle the major project of creating an app, with the right knowledge to do so, or a team of those who do.
“App development is big business, and lucrative too. I’ve heard stories of small businesses owners getting burned by people who promise to deliver apps and never do, or deliver badly developed app or quite simply apps that don’t work. If a small business owner is planning to develop a company app, learn as much as possible as you can so that you can speak the language. Or find someone who does.”
Morson also comments on the costs associated with app creation, which could sometimes be too good to be true for quality development.
“It really depends on your needs and your budget. But always make sure you’re getting quality work. I would say that cost is mostly driven by functionality. If a price sounds too good to be true, as with anything else, it probably is. Apps these days, range from $5,000 and up depending on who is doing the work.”
A small business owner must also be able to put in the work of marketing themselves. One example of this is Janine Hausif, CEO of recently launched app, Around The Way, which helps consumers find local black-owned small businesses.
“The old adage ‘If you build it, they will come’ is dead and gone in today’s tech-savvy world,” Hausif says. “Now it’s ‘If you build it, you need to tell people about it or they’ll never know you exist.’ Small businesses need to create a solid, consistent brand to gain and retain consumers.”
Between the time allocated for creating and maintaining a business app to the cost associated, a mobile app for a small business might be a major undertaking and more of a disadvantage to a business that isn’t based in technology itself.
“If a small business is insistent on creating an app, those businesses that are in technology or selling services through web or social media or for development sites are the businesses that might benefit from an app,” Hendler suggests.
Although creating an app might be out of the realm for your small business, there are many options to explore when looking to interact with consumers via mobile, beginning with creating visibility of your business.
“Small businesses can find other alternatives to becoming mobile, like getting involved with apps like FourSquare and making sure your businesses are linked and listed, where consumers can check-in to the business,” Hendler advises. “Make sure your business is listed on all of the [mobile] maps and make sure you’re connected in using mobile payment options, like PayPal or Square, which is a great option for a small business.”
Sian Morson agrees.
“I don’t think that a mobile app is a necessity for all small businesses. Before small businesses owners think about creating a specific mobile app, I believe that they should explore other mobile options like local search and a mobile-optimized website. Local search is exploding right now, and the majority of people on mobile devices who conduct a local search take action. That means they will either call, or check a store’s location to see how close or far they are from it. For a small business owner, that’s gold. ”
Utilizing other mobile apps that are designed for the visibility of smaller businesses locally could also increase your visibility to consumers in the mobile world.
“Apps like Scoutmob, which empowers small businesses to offer local deals and apps like Cardagin, which a business can create loyalty programs without having to create your own infrastructure [in the mobile app world], are also great for smaller businesses. Go where the eyeballs are.”
If you are looking for something a little closer to your own platform, creating a mobile website that works on various mediums is also a great way to gain mobile exposure.
“A small business would be much better off having a mobile version of their website instead and doing something with responsive design, so their website is responsive to whatever platform is needed, whether it is a tablet or mobile phone,” Hendler recommends.
Creating experiences in the mobile realm for your consumers could begin with just more visibility, one little step closer to bigger consumer brand awareness.
“Entering the mobile space will be necessary in the very near future. Find out where you fit in that space. Prepare for it. Plan around it. Make it happen or else your existing and potential customers will lose interest,” Hausif advises small business owners.
Chantelle Fraser’s life is anything but average. Her free spirit and business savvy have taken her from studying at the London School of Economics, to serving celebrities at private members’ clubs, to jet setting around the globe with high fashion models in tow.
As the CEO and founder of Flawless Entertainment & Promotions, Fraser gives major brands and influential individuals access to the power of beauty and entertainment to take their events to the next level. I caught up with the UK-born entrepreneur to discuss her organic journey to success.
Flawless was born when Fraser realized the models at the agencies she worked for needed help making ends meet between jobs. The company has since expanded to represent musical and specialty talent. As her business continues to grow, it’s amazing to think that it all started with a young woman making cold calls from her bedroom.
We started our conversation at the beginning of her professional life. After running an IT recruitment business while studying for her master’s degree, Chantelle set her sights on the entertainment industry.
Madame Noire (MN): When did you move to the US?
Chantelle Fraser (CF): The way I got to the States is an interesting story. After I finished my master’s, I started working at a private members’ club as a waitress part-time. I was working for Ronnie Wood [of the Rolling Stones]. It was great networking with lots of celebrities and interesting people. I met somebody who turned out to own a retail empire in England who went to the London School of Economics. He said to me, “Give me your resume. I’ve got contacts in the entertainment industry; I’ll try to help you.” It turned out he was moving to the States to conduct some business. He gave me a job as his personal assistant in the States.
MN: What were you doing before you started Flawless?
CF: After that [assistant] job ended, I got a job working at a modeling agency. I always knew I wanted to start my own business, but I thought the way to do it was to start small. I could have taken the corporate route, but realistically I’m not going to go work in a bank. So, I thought what kind of business am I realistically going to be able to run myself. I worked at agencies for about three years before launching my company [in 2006].
MN: What was the catalyst that made you start your business when you did?
CF: I initially thought I was going to end up owning just a regular, high fashion agency. But, I kept getting these calls from clients who wanted to book models for promotions and events. I always had to turn those jobs down because we were managing these models’ careers. In those days it wasn’t seen as good for their careers to be doing events. We’re turning these really well paying jobs down, but I’d listen to models and they’d be struggling so much because they’d be doing all these editorials that weren’t really paying a living wage. I’d see them out when I go to restaurants and they’d be hosting and waitressing.
I thought why don’t I just start a business where clients get to fulfill their needs: they have beautiful people at their events, promoting their product, making them look good, and elevating their brand image. And also I’m providing the models with extra income and a means to showcase their other skills, other than just standing there pouting for the camera.
MN: You’ve talked about the needs Flawless meets for clients and models, what need does it fill for you?
CF: I always wanted to be the architect of my own destiny. I’m a free spirit. I always believe in being unreasonable. I wanted to do something dynamic. Flawless was a way for me to live my dream. It was the perfect type of company that encompasses all the things that I love… meeting people, inspiring other people, managing people. I love casting models, making people happy, and growing something. It’s really fun to actually grow a business from a seed to making your visions come to life.
MN: Tell me about that first year operating out of your bedroom. What mistakes did you make and how did you learn from them?
CF: I was living in the moment. When I look back on it I think, “Oh my God, that’s so crazy!” The first month I started my business I didn’t have money to pay the rent. I had a roommate, it was a rent-controlled apartment, and I was like, “Damn, have I made a mistake?” But, for some reason I just didn’t have fear.
I was calling major brands – Playboy, Estee Lauder, high-net-worth individuals – telling them about my company. I didn’t have a website. I didn’t have anything. All I had was my voice, my charm, and my models, which I think were always of a very high standard. I was able to get business, and clients kept referring me to other clients. Eventually I grew myself out of my bedroom and into an office. One summer’s day, sitting there, I was lonely and said, “I think I’m going to get an office.” I think it was in the first six months I had an office in SoHo with a steady stream of clients and a couple of employees.