All Articles Tagged "small business"
Say what you will about how much you don’t really use it (we hear that often), Google announced updated user data for its Google+ social layer and says more than 500 million people have activated their Google+ accounts. Additionally, 235 million users are active across the various Google properties, including Gmail and Google Play, and 135 million people use the Google+ stream regularly.
According to AdWeek, Google+ is also adding more features that are similar to Facebook and other popular social networks, including Communities, which are similar to Facebook’s Groups. Google also recently purchased iOS photo-editing app Snapseed, which will lead to comparisons with Instagram. So why do we need Google+ if we already have Facebook? The mystery continues…
Meanwhile, Facebook’s Dan Levy spoke at the BIA/Kelsey Interactive conference on Thursday, to discuss how Facebook is working with small businesses for advertising and outreach, including providing more tools and resources.
“What we tell small businesses is what we would tell any business,” Levy said, according to TechCrunch. “We want you to write engaging content that your users want to see. In the same way that you want [your customers] to have a great experience when they walk through the door, we want our users to have a great experience when they visit Facebook.”
According to MediaPost, more than 13 million small and local businesses have Facebook pages, and the active pages grew by 40 percent this year. Additionally, 100,000 small businesses did a Facebook Offer, with one-third new advertisers. Overall, local businesses who bought Facebook advertising doubled this past year.
Valerie Jarrett has served as a trusted adviser to President Obama, and served as a surrogate of sorts on Small Business Saturday when she paid a visit to two Chicago businesses to bring attention to the day.
“I visited two small businesses in the same community in which I grew up,” Jarrett tells Black Enterprise during a Q&A.
“I think part of it that gives me hope is to see someone who is young and talented who has an idea [for a] business that’s also intended to help improve the quality of life for the people who live in the community,” she adds, referring to one of the businesses she visited, Little Black Pearl, a glass blowing business. “I think you see that across the country at small businesses. They really are the backbone of our communities.”
Jarrett goes on to talk about working with President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, and more. To read on, click through to Black Enterprise.
Mobile payments are hot in tech right now, and we’ve reached a major milestone in getting consumers to use their phones to pay for items in real life. Square, which originally produced a mobile credit card reader and has since launched a mobile payments app for consumers, launched its partnership with Starbucks that was announced back in August.
Consumers who have the Square Wallet app on their iPhone or Android device and have it linked to a debit or credit card can simply scan a barcode at 7,000 Starbucks locations nationwide to pay for their purchases. While Starbucks is the largest company partnering with Square Wallet, it is not the only one, and the app allows users to explore nearby merchants who also use the program.
Business Insider has a step-by-step guide to using Square Wallet at Starbucks, and the companies also released a video, embedded here:
Square has done a lot to make it easier for small businesses to accept credit cards and made it more convenient for consumers to pay with their phones. But it is not the only company working to get a foothold in the mobile payments space. PayPal also produces a small credit card reader and has a digital wallet product, plus the brand recognition that Square sometimes lacks outside of tech circles.
Google Wallet is also making waves as it is investigating a physical plastic card that is linked to its mobile app, allowing users to access several accounts with one card. Intuit and eBay, not to mention more traditional credit card companies such as MasterCard and American Express, also have a stake in the game.
One reason mobile payments are so popular now is that they provide small businesses with more ways to accept payments and build loyalty. And while the partnerships with Starbucks and other big guns brings a lot of press and buzz, the impact for small businesses is huge—and is arguably the bigger story.
Have you used Square or other mobile payment apps? Would you like it if your local mom-and-pop shop allowed you to use them?
Add your credit score to the list of important numbers — Social Security number, phone number, anniversary — that you should know and keep handy.
In order to get a business loan or a line of credit, you don’t have to have perfect credit. But, writes personal finance expert Michael Germanovsky in Yahoo Small Business Advisor, the better your credit history the better your chances to obtain startup financing.
First, find out what your personal credit score is. “Many emerging entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that by registering a corporation they can obtain a credit by only using their new business tax ID. It is not entirely so. To establish your eligibility, the bank will calculate a credit score by using your personal social security number,” explains Germanovsky. So it is best if you know what that is before hitting the bank.
Your credit, or FICO, score is calculated in various ways. According to FICO, “The FICO Score is calculated from several different pieces of credit data in your credit report…Your FICO Score considers both positive and negative information in your credit report. Late payments will lower your FICO Score, but establishing or re-establishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score.”
Banks usually perform these calculations, but you can figure out your score as well for free with MSN.
All is not lost; you can improve credit score, says Germanovsky.
Although your credit score is not the same as the credit rating you received from the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, Transunion – your score is affected by your credit history. “While a lender may consider your assets and equity stakes, your debt repayment habits determine not only the size and type of loan or credit extension you may receive, but also the percentage rate as well,” writes Germanovsky.
There are new business opportunities right under your nose—many of which will not cost a lot to start-up. Inc.com found, using data from independent research firm IBISWorld, several industries that are best to launch without a ton of start-up capital. We picked five we thought might spark the interest of Madame Noire readers.
1) Relaxation Drinks
Projected five-year annual growth rate: 24.8%
There are now some 400 brands of relaxation drinks, including Dream Water, that contain melatonin and other ingredients purported to aid sleep. Lowering stress is key to good health, an issue on the minds of African Americans (and everyone else, quite frankly). Does your family have a relaxing recipe? It might be time to turn it into a business.
2) Healthcare Consulting
Projected five-year annual growth rate: 6%
Healthcare consultants are likely to see increased demand for their services in the next five years, especially as companies try to comply with the new Obamacare policies. Become an expert in these policies and you could turn that into income.
Projected five-year annual growth rate: 2%
You no longer need a studio and expensive equipment to start a photography business. ”Your best bet for a decent income is to specialize in weddings, children or family events, or pets,” says Jack Plunkett, CEO of Plunkett Research intelligence firm that studies trends affecting industries. Release your inner shutterbug.
4) Elderly and Disabled Services
Projected five-year annual growth rate: 4.7%
These days, more senior citizens are skipping the nursing home and spending their golden years in their own houses or assisted-living residences. Since obtaining licenses from Medicaid and other government entities can be extremely difficult, Plunkett suggests focusing on providing an unregulated service — for instance, helping seniors transition from their homes to assisted living communities. This is something that a person with patience and a desire to work with people can capitalize on.
5) Green and Sustainable Building Construction
Projected five-year annual growth rate: 23%
Demand from the private sector is on the rise. A large portion of capital will go to labor costs, as opposed to expensive equipment. Moreover, you’ll be on the cutting edge of the construction industry.
Before the $1-billion Barclays Center opened in Brooklyn, NY, the community expressed major worries. There were fears that the arena, home of the Brooklyn Nets, future home of the New York Islanders, and closely associated with Jay-Z, would push out residents and local businesses, basically changing the community for the worse. There were even protests at the opening.
With a few big events under its belt, the arena is getting a better reception from some small businesses in the neighborhood—though not all.
Among the businesses benefiting, reports The Wall Street Journal, is Versailles, the custom dress shop owned by Moussa Dia, who moved his business from Manhattan to Brooklyn because of Barclays. ”What did it for me was knowing Jay-Z was involved,” Dia told the newspaper. “It would mean a lot of celebrities here.”
Christian Whitted agrees that being near Barclays is good for business. He owns New York Chess & Games Shop, which sells chess boards and game sets, teaches after-school classes and hosts summer camps. “As a business person, anytime you have 18,000 people coming within feet of your door, you want to figure out how to exploit that,” he told WSJ.
The Cake Ambiance, opened in 2006 and run by Nigerian-American Jude Nwabuoku, has found business booming. But Nwabuoku says there could be a downside to Barclays. “There’s also the fear that this will change the whole Brooklyn flavor, that it’s going to make the neighborhood commercialized, that our rent is going to go up,” he said. “But this is speculation. It’s no sure thing.”
But all this businesses aren’t pleased. Skilz Unisex Salon has been in the area since 1999, but now Reginald Dumornay, the owner, says he can’t afford to stay if his $4,000 rent gets increased (up to doubled) next year. ”Just can’t afford it,” he explains to the newspaper. “I’ve been nervous. Can’t sleep. I’m 44 years old. When I was younger, it was a little easier to get up and go.”
It becomes another example of the ways in which dramatic change to a community not only alters its physical landscape, but reinvents the very nature of the neighborhood. Now, the cost of entry is thousands of dollars per month in rent, which determines who and what comes to the community.
Improvement is always welcome, but in these situations, it’s important to determine at what cost foot traffic, high profile and media attention comes.
For a traveling poet/spoken word performance artist, sharing your gift with varying and growing audiences is a dream come true. At least it is for Talitha Anyabwele, an artist who’s traveled state-to-state promoting her passion, and now her business Black Girl Speaks Productions, Inc. Solely headed by Anyabwele, BGS was launched shortly after she abruptly checked out of corporate America.
Although she’s pursuing her passion, most times Anyabwele says she feels like she’s indeed running a business. In late October, due to her daughter’s illness, she was forced to reschedule her show in Minneapolis. It’s situations like these that puts her job as a poet on the back burner and brings Anyabwele’s duties as CEO and artistic director into focus.
“I’m reminded BGS is a business around tax season; when I have to do my reports, budgets and income statements. I don’t like doing those things, but it’s necessary,” she said.
“The weekend I had to cancel my show, I had to eat the nonrefundable costs that come with that. It was a business and personal decision and I know that when I don’t put forth my best effort every single day, I don’t get paid. I am fully responsible for all of the income and all of the output,” she added.
Shaping the Business of Thought and Theatrics
BGS spawned from a much-needed stress reliever. Working as a principal, in winter 2005 Anyabwele performed a few pieces at Amen-Ra’s Bookshop and Gallery in Tallahassee. Prior to her stint in education she worked as a business professional in her hometown of Atlanta.
“I did corporate America because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re smart, capable and do it with ease. I fell into the trap of doing what made sense instead of what made me happy,” Anyabwele said.
During her hour and a half commute to Atlanta, she would literally cry out of frustration and having to contain the burning desire to quit. Retuning to her alma mater Florida A&M University for a friend’s graduation, Anyabwele resolved her place in the professional world.
“I saw how happy and eager she was to start her career. I realized I didn’t have that anymore and I abruptly quit,” she tells us. “I just didn’t go back. I wouldn’t advise that, because I completely burnt that bridge. I probably should have left it open, but thankfully I didn’t have to cross it again.”
It was then Anyabwele temporarily left business behind for education. While better satisfied with her professional direction, she still enjoyed an occasional poetic release, revisiting the days when she performed at FAMU with a spoken word troupe. Reactions from her first solo performance at the bookshop set her on her most-desired path.
“It was one of those things that kind of made the decision for me. From the response I realized it was greater than me. This had to be something for the masses, especially for black women,” Anyabwele remembers. “The demand was so great I knew that this was something that could be not only my passion, but something that was profitable.”
Learning to Create Greater Demand and Absorbing Costs
Initially Anyabwele figured that BGS could operate multiple ways. When first starting out, she set up shows just like the one at Amen Ra’s. Once word-of-mouth buzz developed, Anyabwele contacted colleges across the country about the one-woman show, booking 12 schools. With the colleges buying the show, Anyabwele had no costs; the school would pay for her to perform and she would reap the benefits of the show. Eventually she earned enough capital to try a different strategy.
“That’s what set me up to produce the show myself. I’m glad I used that strategy first. Now, I do the show one of two ways,” she said. “I produce it myself and absorb all of the costs meaning I find a venue, I rent it, I have to find a PR team, publish and print the tickets. That’s the most expensive way of doing it. It has the highest risk, but it also yields the highest return if it’s done correctly.”
Depending on the venue’s size, Anyabwele invests anywhere from $10,00 to $25,000 for production costs.
Cancelling or postponing shows of course is never a part of the plan. With Anyabwele’s current method of operation, the impact cancellations put on business is great. Fortunately, they rarely happen and there are a plethora of opportunities to reschedule. Anyabwele’s 2012-2013 season already has seven dates — Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, New York, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Tampa, where BGS is based. One of her ultimate goals is to do an HBCU tour.
Joan Morgan has already made her mark as an award-winning journalist, now she’s about to carve out a niche in the beauty world.
A noted hip-hop journalist, Morgan, who was born in Jamaica and raised in the South Bronx, started out as a freelance writer for The Village Voice. Since then, she has written for Vibe, Spin, Ms., More, Interview, Working Mother, GIANT, and Essence magazine, where she was executive editor. In addition to this, Morgan coined the term “hip-hop feminism” in 1999 when she made her literary debut with When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost.
Now, she has turned her efforts to Emily Jayne, a natural body care line of products. It includes natural body butters and fragrances, all inspired by the Caribbean.
Madame Noire: Trying to solve your son’s mild eczema with homemade treatments helped spur the launch of Emily Jayne.
Joan Morgan: I’m very, very happy spending way too much money on products but he needed something that worked. The more I played with scents, the more I started to prefer my products. Frankly, they just worked better.
MN: You came up with the company name by combining the name of your Jamaican grandmother, Emily, and your Jamaican great-grandmother, Jayne. What was it about these two women that inspired you?
JM: I’m come from a family that believes strongly in “lines.” My mom’s line, the Lawson line, includes particularly strong women. They’re mountain women at their core; they have a harmony with the earth, a way with herbs and the kind of fortitude that starts you on a mountainside with no electricity and running water (Emily’s house and the house, I was born in, as a matter of fact) and lands you sitting in a graduation watching your granddaughter graduate from one of the top universities in the United States (me, Wesleyan). Throughout it all is a tradition of formidable strength, humility and beauty. We were raised with this as our legacy. I knew my grandmother Emily.
Jayne, my great-grandmother died before I was born. But like most the Lawsons who came before me, they were part of my family’s daily conversation during my childhood. Still are to this day. So they always had a presence, always had a place.
MN: How did you fund the startup?
JM: I took about $500 in personal savings and made a commitment to only grow the business as quickly as that initial investment plus any profit would allow me. That was a really important lesson I learned from a previous business venture that didn’t go nearly as well as Emily Jayne. Fabulous ideas are wonderful but you have to be able to afford them. When I couldn’t afford an initial ‘great idea,’ I just had to get really creative and come up with another alternative.
I also received a really generous initial order from a sister/friend who really believed in what I was doing and so she bought like a year’s supply at one time and had me charge her the price of what it would cost to incorporate and trademark the company. That kind of support has been amazing and invaluable.
JM: Really, no obstacles yet. Knock on wood. My biggest issue is time management because I’m also in the middle of a doctoral program at NYU. But I’m incredibly mindful of that. For the first two months I deliberately kept under the radar of my more fabulous and extremely well-connected circle of friends because I wanted to make sure I could handle production demands. I also waited to put Emily Jayne out on my public Facebook pages and Twitter. I knew my network was valuable so I wanted to utilize it wisely.
MN: What makes Emily Jayne different?
JM: Well the inspiration for the company is different. It’s based strongly on my desire to create quality natural products, but a lot of people have that desire. You can read about the inspirations on the first page of the website, but this entire venture is a tribute to my cultural identity and ancestry as a Caribbean-American woman. So the scents are really unique in that respect.
And also, I see this as an extension of my cultural and political work as a feminist writer and thinker. I wanted to create a product that helped black and brown people feel good about skin that is often problematized but inherently really aesthetically beautiful. I love the way our skin looks when its moisturized and glistening. The way the light catches it is just beautiful. And I wanted women in particular to have a product that encouraged them to touch themselves. I’m a big believer in pleasure, particularly women’s pleasure. This is product that’s deeply rooted in those particular values.
MN: What are your plans for the company?
JM: Future plans for this year are to continue developing the customer base. I want to know my customers so I try to make myself as available and aware of their preferences and tastes as possible. Besides, I love talking product. I’ve been really blessed so far, as publicity and press go. Emily Jayne sold it’s first jar on June 26th. [I]n a few weeks I’ll be making the celeb rounds but honestly, building customer relationships is my top priority. Do I want global domination — Whole Foods, Barney’s — down the road? Yes. But what I want now are happy, loyal customers that keep returning.
I’m also very happy to be working with other black women who have synchronistic brands, [like] Nina Burke’s company CCBlaq Candles which makes these divine soy based candles. And Jodie Patterson’s company, Georgia. We’ve done events together and have a lot of plans for cross-promotions. It’s mad cool to be able to work together and support each other this way.
MN: How do you juggle everything?
JM: I’m not working as a journalist, but I am a full-time PhD student, a cultural critic, public intellectual with a pretty heavy lecture schedule and a mom. But I’m also the daughter of a woman who immigrated to the U.S with $50 in her pocket from Jamaica and often worked more than one job until she got herself through nursing school. I don’t ask “How?” I just do it.
Most people say that networking across your industry is the way to go to promote your small business. But according to an article in Inc.com, you should actually be spending more time with your friends.
“As the company grows to 20, 30, or even hundreds of people, the CEO must become more discerning about which lunches to set up, which phone calls to take, and which emails to return. It’s no longer possible to talk to everyone, so the CEO must prioritize the best opportunities — the biggest customers, the most important partners, and others with the most potential to have an impact on business growth,” says the article.
CEOs should spend time with trusted advisors, a.k.a. their friends. If a friend refers someone to meet with you about your business, take this meeting, advises the article, before meeting with total strangers. Also, take time to meet with your friends about your business. “Educate them on the things you need to grow your business–customers, partners, quality recruits, etc. Then ask them to suggest meetings for you,” says Inc.com.
Besides making introductions, a friend can also be a wellspring of useful information in other areas. In addition to venting about workplace problems, bounce new ideas off of your savvier friends. They have a better insight to how you handle new situations and stress and can help you come up with solutions that best fit your style. You can even go so far as to set up brainstorming sessions with a group of friends. If you buy the drinks and nachos, you can probably get a good group to show up.
Friends can also be your best promotion via word of mouth. They can wear and use your products, and utilize their own social media networks to tell others about your goods and services.
But remember to reciprocate the favor. Pass on work and recommendations to your friends as well. You want to make sure you’re part of their trusted network of friends as well.
Urban professionals nationwide face a similar dilemma when they clock out after a day’s work – what to do with their few hours of freedom. Big cities offer plenty of options; but it can be hard for young, Black professionals to find the right fit.
This is especially true in Chicago, where the nightlife scene is marked by venues that shy away from encouraging diversity. One group of socialites decided to turn their weekend headache into a business opportunity. And they chose the biggest party night of the year to put their idea to the test.
Kisha Keeney, Diamond Ingram, Paris Tyler, and Lesley Martin met the way most young professionals working in the city do: through work, college, and mutual friends. They decided to try organizing events when they couldn’t find a personal, affordable party option to ring in 2012. They pooled their resources and respective networks. If their New Year’s Eve loft party was a success, it would be a sign to move forward with their business idea.
A success it was, and Posh Entertainment was born with Keeny as director of event coordination, Ingram as director of new business development, Tyler as director of operations, and Martin as creative director. The quartet hasn’t looked back since, planning events at top venues in the Chicago area that expose their clientele of African-American young professionals to new places, and show venues.
I caught up with the ladies to find out how year one of entrepreneurship was treating them, and what lessons they are learning along the way.
Madame Noire (MN): What made you take the risk of launching this business?
Lesley Martin (LM): So many times we let haters dominate the social scene. We are not open to supporting one another and building a foundation of positive interaction in our city, which leads people to have cliquish behavior. We really wanted to launch Posh because it was what Chicago was missing. We all believe Chicago is filled with a ton of amazing talented people and is an amazing city which so much our demographic has not discovered yet!
Kisha Keeney (KK): We all have a different reason for starting Posh, more than anything it’s the desire to work for ourselves that drives us. We each have our own individual goals and skills that really help us continue to evolve as a group.
MN: What is Posh’s current focus?
Diamond Ingram (DI): We focus more now on individual events and helping clients bring their ideas to life while creating a lifestyle and experience for all people.
KK: Our focus is to continue to get more clients; we want to gain enough profit so we can do this full time. The only way we’ll be able to do that is if we have enough clientele to support that goal.
MN: Where do you want to take Posh?
Paris Tyler (PT): We enjoy hosting our own events but want to work with businesses and individuals to make their ideas come to life. We currently have our website being built, which will include a blog where we will talk about Posh Picks around the city. We want native Chicagoans and even people who are new to the city or visiting the city to see this as the hub of what’s happening in Chicago. We also are planning a couple of events so that we can finish out 2012 strong.
We have an opportunity to expand into Atlanta next year. We’re making sure that we have home base in a good place so that we can move forward with expansion, but we want to also have hubs in NYC and LA.
KK: Long term, the sky is the limit. We definitely see this developing into a boutique agency that provides a variety of services to include but not limiting talent management, corporate event development, and media provisions.
DI: We would love to get more into corporate events, conferences, and fundraisers. We want to expand our philanthropic efforts and volunteerism.
MN: What separates you from your competition?
KK: We focus on our brand, and we don’t offer events on a weekly basis. Our goal is to keep it fresh and creative, and most of all keep our customers wanting more!
PT: We want to create the Posh lifestyle that we think that our peers are living or folks will want to live. We’re learning and researching new ways to stand out from the competition. Not just through the venue and the DJ, but what guests can walk away with or experience while there. The industry is so saturated and we want to have long-term success.
MN: How long did you plan before launching?
PT: We thought long and hard about the name and what it would mean. We made sure that it would be a reflection of our own personalities and the events that we wished to create. From there we began the LLC process, writing of the business plan, and implementing operations and procedures that we may have learned on our individual jobs to help with how we operated.
What surprised us was the number of resources we each bring to the table. We know so many people in different industries and fields that we knew we could tap to help our launch and growth. Their response was so positive, and it definitely reassured us that we were making the right move.