• President’s Proposals Underwhelm Small Business Advocates

    At the start of his State of the Union speech last night, President Obama promised to put forth a “set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” and threatened to “take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families,” if Congress would not join him.

    His not-exactly-concrete proposals included:

    • Closing tax loopholes that reward companies that send jobs and profits overseas
    • Reducing tax rates for businesses that create jobs in the U.S.
    • Spending money saved through aforementioned tax reforms on “rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, and unclogging our commutes”
    • Streamlining the permitting process for key infrastructure projects to create more construction jobs faster
    • Launching six more high-tech manufacturing hubs like those this administration has funded in Raleigh, NC, and Youngstown, Ohio
    • Establishing new trade partnerships with Europe and the
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  • Defining Entrepreneurship Based on Billionaires

    You may be self-employed, but are you an entrepreneur? Economists Magnus Henrekson and Tino Sanandaji would say “not likely.”

    Their definition of entrepreneurship excludes Mom & Pops, sole proprietors, and any business that is not innovating and growing. In fact, the Swedish scholars argue, in countries and regions where entrepreneurship is most rampant, self-employment is less common.

    In a study published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Henrekson and Sanandaji, who work at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, claim they found an inverse relationship between entrepreneurship and rates of self-employment. “Countries with higher income, higher trust, lower taxes, more venture capital investment, and lower regulatory burdens have more entrepreneurs but less self-employment,” they say.

    What’s an entrepreneur then? The researchers adopt the definition of the early 20th century Austrian economist and Harvard professor

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  • When Women Execs Are Your Target Market

    Branding experts Lalita Khosla and Lubna Abu-Osba

    Here’s something a lot of brands don’t get about marketing: When your ad campaign targets men, you don’t capture women. But if you target women with authentic branding, you’re likely to win men too. So say Lubna Abu-Osba and Lalita Khosla, partners in the branding agency The Influence Bureau.

    In an earlier interview, the two experts shared what businesses need to know about marketing to women consumers. Here in part two, they tell how B2B companies could target women-owned businesses.

    YSB: What's your branding or marketing advice to B2B companies that want to target women-owned businesses or female executives?

    Lubna Abu-Osba: More women are opening businesses than men right now. If you’re trying to appeal to a woman business owner or female consumer, don’t look at women as a monolithic group, because they’re not one.

    Realize it’s about the holistic experience of speaking to women. It’s about tapping into female core values and creating an authentic relationship with that female

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  • Target Your Brand to She Who Controls Spending

    The Influence Bureau's Lalita Khosla and Lubna Abu-Osba

    Lubna Abu-Osba and Lalita Khosla are the creative minds behind The Influence Bureau, an agency with offices in New York and suburban Philadelphia that helps brands better target their marketing campaigns to women.

    Among the clients they’ve engaged are dozens of major names including Coach, Intel, Marriott, and Whirlpool. But their insights about reaching female consumers apply to small brands just as well.

    Here, in part one of a two-part interview, the two experts tell Yahoo Small Business what businesses need to know about marketing to women consumers. In part two, they share ideas about how B2B companies could target women-owned businesses.

    Yahoo Small Business: What makes women a unique or challenging group of consumers to market to?

    Lubna Abu-Osba: People think of women as a niche market, but targeting men is the niche. Women influence the entire consumer market. Research shows that women control upwards of 80 percent of all spending in the U.S. Some put the number as high as 90

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  • 4 Takeaways from a Crash Course for Entrepreneurs

    New business books come across my desk every week, sent by publishers seeking Yahoo coverage for their authors. It’s impossible to review each one, but a title that promises to teach what you need about management in 2 hours is hard to resist.

    The paperback by three seasoned Florida entrepreneurs, “Managing Your Business,” is part of a new 5-volume “Crash Course for Entrepreneurs” that includes titles on starting a business, sales and marketing, business law, and finance basics. To be accurate, we’re talking 2 hours to power through each 160-page book in the series—10 hours to learn the basics. And, of course, the authors concede, “there’s much more to learn about each topic than the books can cover.” But the set, they say, is designed to provide any would-be entrepreneur with “a framework” for running a company.

    Just what can you learn about managing your business in 2 hours? How to create a vibrant office culture, how to make meetings work, how to spend wisely, and how to hire and

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  • Challenges Will Hamper Mobile Payment Uptake, Analyst Predicts

    challenges hamper mobile paymentsConsidering our recent report on data showing that two in three consumers abort smartphone or tablet purchases due to checkout snags, and that consumers abandon mobile shopping carts more than 90 percent of the time, Yahoo Small Business readers won’t be surprised to hear that global technology analyst Ovum predicts low consumer uptake and usage of m-payment and digital wallet services in 2014.

    Based on its 2013 Consumer Insights Survey of 15,123 consumers across 15 countries Ovum predictson-going challenges around the business model for digital wallet services” and says “consumers will lean most towards services associated with financial brands.” Specifically, 43 percent of survey respondents consider banks the most trusted m-payments service provider, followed by credit card companies (13 percent), online payment providers (9 percent) and then mobile operators (6 percent).

    According to Eden Zoller, principal analyst with Ovum’s Consumer Practice, and author of its 2014 Trends to

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  • Personal Brand

    I understand the importance of visibility. As a small business owner, being “known” can be the difference between a steady flow of revenue or closing your doors. Yet, being visible is not enough. Being remembered is most important and means you occupy some prime real estate in the mind of someone. Garnering “share of mind” means that somewhere along the way they sampled your character and competence and you became memorable.

    Marketing, by definition, is creating an exchange environment. For an individual, that could mean exchanging a referral, speaking positively on your behalf, a promotion or an introduction. Branding, by definition, is an emotion or image tied to a product.

    You are the product.

    Even in businesses, people are the brand and define the company, more than any mere mission statement hanging in the lobby. So, how does an individual create “buzz” for their brand for visibility and more importantly to be remembered so that they can develop credibility?

    1. Know what makes you

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  • 4 Financial Tips from a Community Banker

    Entrepreneur Ken LaRoe had been in the banking industry for more than 15 years when he founded First Green Bank in Mt. Dora, Fla., in 2009. With a mission to promote positive environmental and social responsibility while operating as a traditional community bank, LaRoe says First Green has made loans to a solar-powered catfish farm, an organic blueberry farm, numerous medical practices, and many other small business in Lake County, Fla.

    LaRoe calls his community bank the first “values based financial institution” in the eastern U.S., and one of a breed that he hopes to see expand. Small business owners stand to benefit, he says.

    On the whole, LaRoe says, the shrinking banking industry has been bad for small business. He points to a Wall Street Journal report that revealed that the number of banks in the U.S. dropped below 7,000 last month, from a high of over 18,000, for the first time since the FDIC was formed in 1934.

    Ken LaRoe, CEO of First Green Bank

    Though it wasn’t the small community banks that crushed the

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  • Goals

    New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for personal improvement. For businesses, the New Year is an opportunity to set goals, both big and small. But what’s even more important than the resolutions is the ability to follow through.

    Set goals. Goals provide accountability and help gauge the necessary efforts to achieve results. Set a long-term, overarching goal, but also set smaller, more manageable goals that you can review on a weekly or monthly basis. This is where follow-through comes into play.

    As a business owner, at the end of the month or fiscal year, ask yourself if you are meeting the goals set at the beginning of 2014. If so, great; keep going and keep improving! If not, reevaluate and continue to strive for those ultimate goals, so 2014 is great and 2015 is even better.

    Here are three goals some businesses set in 2014:

    Rebrand the company. This is a big change and certainly doesn’t apply to all businesses, but for those who choose to rebrand, the move can breathe new life into a

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  • Hubspot tool a boon for ‘blogger’s block’

    Hubspot, the hot online marketing platform has created a fun little toy that actually could be useful for any regular bloggers stuck with a deadline and a content requirement but suddenly without any ideas. The tool, called the 'Blog Topic Generator' could just as easily be called the blog title generator since that is what it does. Given a few nouns to use as seeds from which to grow possible ideas it kicks out five suggested blog post titles for you to use.

    Here's an example. I seeded the tool with the nouns 'small business', 'sales' and 'startups'.

    The tool gave me the following.

    Blog Topic GeneratorNow, allowing for the obvious singular versus plural issues, these aren't necessarily bad suggestions. The first one is probably a bit more in line with an investment blog than one devoted to advice for small businesses. The second is kind of interesting in an abstract way, but perhaps not really helpful right now. If we turn the third one to a plural then it's a great idea - although a lot to pull off if I'm

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