Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Entrepreneur clears hurdles to a “Made in USA” label

    A stitcher works in American Blanket Company's Fall River, Mass., factory

    Rick Lotuff is a third-generation manufacturer whose first claim to fame was starting the Berkshire Blanket Company in 1993 when he was 21 years old. He has high hopes that his second claim to fame will be reawakening an industry that once thrived in an historic New England town.

    In September 2012, Lotuff launched American Blanket Company in Fall River, Mass., and has so far hired five of the town’s talented textile cutters and sewers. “Our goal is to build the best product we can, incorporating an American workforce and getting people back to work in a city that has seen a lot of difficulty,” Lotuff says.

    The labels on every kind of fabric-based product in your home offer evidence that running a textile business in the U.S. in 2013 is not common. Lotuff says market forces ultimately pushed manufacturing for his first company offshore (he sold Berkshire in 2006), and it wasn’t easy to establish a new business offering an American-made product.

    But he was determined to offer consumers a

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  • Your Business Rules Your Life? Help from a Billionaire Who’s Been There

    On his way to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen, Clay Mathile says he made numerous mistakes that brought his company “close to meeting a haymaker.” He once hired a blind truck driver, and he sent a dog-hating sales exec to dog shows, for instance.

    But the biggest thing that got in the way of Mathile’s eventual success, he says, was his own behavior. It took some brutally honest feedback from peers and employees for him to see that “I wasn’t developing my people; I was manipulating them.”

    Mathile shares that and other hard-earned wisdom in “Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You,” published this week. It’s a must-read for any small business owner who is looking for the key to growth, sustainability, and even personal happiness. Subtitled “learning and living professional management,” the book’s jacket promises entrepreneurs “no more 16-hour days.”

    Mathile became owner of the IAMS pet food company in 1982 at age 41, grew it from half a million to $1 billion in sales, and

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  • Business owners redefine “vacation”

    Summer is the season that tests your entrepreneurial mettle more than others: Do you love being your own boss enough to skip the family vacation again?

    Last year we reported on a survey that revealed nearly half of small business owners did not have time to take a summer vacation in 2012. Most of those who did have time said they would work while away. So it seems good news that 63 percent of small business people this year say they have committed to take one summer vacation, according to a survey conducted last month by j2 Global. The provider of business cloud services and digital media polled more than 2,500 U.S. small business owners and employees who are customers of its eVoice, eFax, and Campaigner services.

    infographic: j2 Global

    The definition of vacation, however, seems to have changed. "Freedom or release from duty, business, or activity," is one way still translates the word. Last month, we reported results of a similar survey which asked small business owners, "How frequently do you

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  • Small businesses get more, but smaller, loans

    Since the depths of the recession, small business lending conditions have been slowly improving, but the size of the loans is shrinking.

    An annual report on bank lending to small businesses published yesterday by the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy shows that while the number of loans to businesses in general has been steadily improving since mid-2009, lending to small firms has been slower to bounce back and the average small business loan size has continued to decline.

    In an introduction to the 2012 research report, Winslow Sargent, SBA’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy, writes: “I can report that the overall picture looks better than it did a year ago. Although lending to small businesses was still down, the decline was less than in 2010 and 2011, an indication of progress.” Sargent predicts that year-by-year changes in small business lending will be evident as the economy continues to improve.

    The SBA Office of Advocacy analyzes the lending patterns of national and local

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  • A self-promotion pro tells how to get ahead

    Consultant Dan Schawbel is the author of Promote Yourself

    Dan Schawbel’s new book is called Promote Yourself, and there can be no doubt he’s walking the talk. Any author who can get book-cover testimonials from the likes of Daniel Pink, Stephen Covey, Jack Canfield, Guy Kawasaki, Gretchen Rubin and more than a dozen other captains of industry, media, and self help has every right to call himself an authority on getting recognized at work.

    Schawbel’s first book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, published in 2010, described how to leverage social media to get a job. The 29-year-old has since forged a career for himself as a consultant, speaker, and author helping his Generation Y peers thrive in the new economy. But his insights can serve anyone grappling with what he calls “the new rules for career success.”

    Nearly a year ago this blog featured Schawbel’s advice on how to build a personal brand. His new book, due out September 3 and available for pre-order now, lists some rules that should be plainly evident to anyone by now, such as

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  • Can parents raise kids to be entrepreneurs?

    Young Entrepreneur

    Colleges around the country are nurturing startup founders with classes and clubs in entrepreneurship. But some parents start even earlier, grooming offspring with the potential to be the next Nicholas Woodman or Sara Blakely (two of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires). Yahoo! Small Business spoke to several young entrepreneurs and their parents to find out if there’s a parenting style that inspires kids to grow up to be business owners.

    Matt Lautz was 16 when he started his first a software development business. There have been other startups as well as mergers and acquisitions for the wunderkind over the years since. Today, at 31, he’s a leader of Milwaukee’s emerging startup community and president of CorvisaCloud, which he grew to 100 employees in under three years.

    As a kid, Lautz says, “When I wanted things that weren’t necessities, I was told to get a job.” He went to work on the helpdesk for an internet service provider. But after solving the same user problem for the

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  • Remember the JOBS Act? It Might Take Effect After All

    More than a year after the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was signed into law, the SEC has begun adopting rules for enforcing it. The law was designed, in part, to make it easier for small businesses to raise funding from a wider pool of investors.

    The SEC considered one proposed rule and adopted two final rules today. The most important of the new rules makes it legal for the first time since the days of the Great Depression for private companies to advertise that they are seeking investment capital. Venture capitalists and hedge funds will be permitted to do the same.

    Entrepreneurs and small business owners are especially interested in aspects of the Act that will permit small businesses to solicit crowdfunded investments from “unaccredited” investors—or people who are not high net-worth—but the SEC has yet to rule on that aspect of the law.

    The rules adopted today must be published in the Federal Register before they can go into effect.

    One of the final rules “would

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  • Galloping from pop-up shop to thriving retail business

    Farmyard Darlings owners Kim Berry (left) and Carole Sinclair

    Until about three years ago, Carole Sinclair had a solid career as a Silicon Valley public relations executive. But at heart she has always been a country girl who’d rather be riding a horse than commuting on US 101 to a high-tech office. She was also a self-confessed hoarder of vintage Americana. In 15 years of collecting saddles, typewriters, linens, and other old treasures, she had filled a garage, never quite sure what she would do with it all.

    Then, at a formal party several years ago she met Kim Berry, a fellow farm gal disguised as a Nordstrom buyer. The only two women in the room wearing cowboy boots that night, they became instant best friends.

    The two decided to team up in an effort to give a new life to Sinclair’s garage full of collectibles. In 2010, they found a vacant cottage where they could host a pop-up vintage sale. The location, in Lafayette, Calif., was ideal: behind a charming nursery garden, adjacent to a 5-star restaurant, and a 15-minute drive from downtown San

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  • Employers now have until 2015 to comply with healthcare law

    “We’re listening to businesses about the healthcare law” was the headline of a post on the White House blog yesterday. Presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett announced in the blog that the White House would extend until 2015 the deadline for employers to comply with the Affordable Care Act, and would meantime work to streamline the law’s reporting requirements.

    Reports in TIME and CBS News are among those that suggest the delay is merely a midterm election maneuver designed to safeguard business votes for Democrats in 2014.

    Others note that it translates to a multi-billion-dollar reduction in expected federal revenue for next year: noncompliant employers—those with more than 50 workers who do not provide health insurance—won't be assessed fines of $2,000 per employee until 2015. The Chicago Tribune reports:

    "Tuesday's delay also raised questions about initial funding for Obamacare. The employer mandate is expected to raise $140 billion in revenues over the next 10 years, according to the

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  • RallyPoint: Building a Social Network to get 2 million veterans back to work.

    For the 1 million U.S. military members who are expected to leave service in the next three years, and the more than 1 million veterans who are currently unemployed, a new free social networking site could be the key to finding work in the private sector.

    Like a LinkedIn for the military, RallyPoint was built by two enterprising Iraq War veterans exclusively for members and ex-members of the U.S. Armed Forces. RallyPoint founders Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing first met in Baghdad in 2008 and crossed paths again at Harvard Business School in 2011. Inspired by living where Facebook was conceived and by niche social media successes that followed it, such as Behance for artists and Doximity for doctors, the two sketched out an idea on a napkin at a Harvard Square pub one night.

    Weiss, who served 10 years on active duty as a Marine Corps Scout/Sniper Platoon Commander and an Army Special Forces officer, says that LinkedIn is not much use for climbing the career ladder inside the military.

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