Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • 6 Holiday Gifts for the Small Business Owner

    If you have a small business owner on your holiday shopping list, or you are one and you're looking to drop some hints, here are some ideas for giftable purchases that could make 2013 an easier, educational, and perhaps even more profitable year for your favorite entrepreneur.

    1. Business Coaching Sessions: Give an entrepreneur a gift certificate for a massage or a day at the spa and it's likely to expire before they find time to use it. But a session or several with a business coach holds the promise of increased profits, new customers, or improved time management skills. Find coaches in your area at the online Worldwide Association of Business Coaches directory. With some coaching, maybe next year your entrepreneur will have time for that spa day.

    2. Tickets to a Conference: There's nothing like getting away from the business and interacting with other innovators for inspiration. Help your entrepreneur start the year off with new energy or look forward to a refreshing midyear break

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  • Gift Books for the Small Business Owner or Wannabe

    Coinciding with the rise in entrepreneurship and self-employment, this year saw the publication of many great books for the startup founder and small business owner. Just in time for holiday shopping, here's a list of 10 great books—most, but not all, published this year—for the entrepreneur on your gift list.

    1. The recent re-release of a classic, Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, originally published in 1937, shares now ancient wisdom about self-empowerment and might have been the original "power of positive thinking" tome for the business set.

    2. Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, seems to share the same passion that The 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferris has for freeing yourself from a boss in order to lead a life of international intrigue. But even if global airline travel and developing world adventures aren't what motivate you to be your own boss, Guillebeau's book shares some inspiring stories about how others started their own businesses on a shoestring.

    3. The

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  • Self-Employment Assistance Center to Help States Help Startups

    Small Business Administrator Karen Mills and Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced today that their agencies have partnered on a new program designed to help citizens who are receiving unemployment insurance to start their own businesses.

    The program, targeted at state agencies and state legislators, will deliver resources at the state level so that all 50 states can provide self-employment assistance in the form of financial assistance, entrepreneurial training, and other resources to unemployed residents interested in launching businesses and creating new jobs.

    The launch of the SBA/DOL Self-Employment Assistance Center website follows the release of a DOL guidance earlier this year governing state Self-Employment Assistance, or SEA, programs. The guidance—contained in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which provided $35 million for states to create SEA programs and expand entrepreneurship opportunities—offers assistance and model legislation for

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  • Disaster recovery, fiscal cliff fears, and hiring slump

    Small business news was dominated by doom and gloom headlines this week, but every story has a silver lining.

    Disaster recovery continues: Thousands of small businesses in New York and New Jersey continue to struggle through superstorm Sandy recovery efforts. Newsday reported that local officials believe that unless many businesses get help, they will close their doors.

    The good news? Newsday reports that New York FEMA coordinator Michael Byrne said the agency is open to extending the deadline for disaster loan applications past December 31. Byrne told Newsday that FEMA and SBA want to hear from business owners in need of the deadline extension.

    Fiscal cliff fears: The biggest fiscal cliff threat to small businesses is the little-talked-about end of the payroll tax holiday, which would raise the current 4.2 percent payroll tax to 6.2 percent--effectively a 2 percent paycut on a $113,000 salary, reports CNN Money:

    "Ending the payroll tax holiday would take away $80 a month from someone

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  • More credit union loans to small business? Banks say no

    New York Democratic Senator Kirstin Gillibrand is grabbing headlines in her state this week for pushing her colleagues to vote on the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act. The legislation, introduced by Colorado Senator Mark Udall in 2011, would address ongoing complaints about limited access to business loans by raising a cap on commercial loans that credit unions are permitted to make, based on a percentage of their assets.

    Senate Bill 509, as it is known, "would amend the Federal Credit Union Act to advance the ability of credit unions to promote small business growth and economic development opportunities, and for other purposes." It has been sitting in the Banking Committee since March 2011.

    According to a report published by public media aggregator Innovation Trail,

    Passing the act would mean that credit unions could gradually increase their lending capability through a tiered system, with a new upper cap of 27.5 percent. Senator Gillibrand says passing this act would increase

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  • How can Congress help small business? 7 owners, 7 answers

    While Congress and President Obama come down to the wire on fiscal cliff negotiations, small business owners hold their breath for a solution that will not be an economic setback for them or their customers. After averting the cliff however, there is still much to be done to improve conditions for small business in the U.S. We asked small business owners around the country what else they'd like to see from the federal government in the coming year.

    Seven entrepreneurs in seven industries answered the question: "What is the most important thing President Obama and Congress could do in the next year to improve the outlook for your small business?" Here are their seven (quite different) answers:

    Lenore Davies, Partner, Pripstein and Davies Architects, Wyncote, Pa.

    We are a very small business; an architecture firm of 2 people. Our industry has been decimated by the economic downturn. We specialize in small projects, predominantly residential renovations and additions. Our clients

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  • A tool for testing a market, or sizing up competition

    Image: www.sizeup.com

    The Small Business Administration's new Online Learning Center offers a cool—and potentially very useful—tool for owners of existing small businesses as well as entrepreneurs investigating startup ideas. It's a widget from SizeUp, a company that was featured in a TechCrunch Disrupt event last year for its mission to deliver big-business-level intelligence to small businesses.

    SizeUp's tool is designed to provide a small business owner with what a high paid consultant might provide for a large business: data that show how your business stacks up against the competition in your geographic area, insight into your customers, and clues about the best places to advertise.

    I gave SizeUp a test drive to see what it could tell me about how my own small side-business—a one-woman wedding decorating operation based in Fairfield County, Conn.—compared to others.

    I didn't get far: entering my industry and geographic location into the widget prompted the message: "There is not enough data for your

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  • Small retailers need a holiday boost, analyst says

    chart: Sageworks

    Despite all the good publicity around Small Business Saturday, sales have been shrinking for the smallest retailers while their larger competitors are seeing strong growth this year.

    According to data from Sageworks, which provides financial analysis services to private companies, 2012 will be the worst sales year for privately held retailers with annual sales of below $1 million since 2009.

    Those small retailers have posted a nearly 3 percent drop in sales year to date. Meanwhile, privately held retailers overall are seeing a nearly 6 percent increase in sales volume this year, and  privately held retailers with annual sales of more than $10 million have seen a roughly 11 percent increase since last year. Sageworks data does not cover publicly traded companies such as Walmart, Kohl's or Target, but spans retailers from small Mom & Pops to privately-held chain stores.

    Sageworks analyst Libby Bierman says the firm's data shows that the smallest retailers are seeing a setback after two

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  • Holiday shopping season starts with $5.5 billion small biz spree

    Consumers spent $59.1 billion over the Black Friday weekend. Less than 10 percent of that went to the small businesses that represent more than 95 percent of all retailers, according to the National Retail Federation.

    Nevertheless, the National Federation of Independent Businesses reports that the holiday shopping season is off to an auspicious start for small business. A survey released today by NFIB and American Express reports that consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 67 percent from 34 percent just two weeks ago, contributing to $5.5 billion in spending with independent merchants on November 24. The figure is $100,000 more than predicted by pre-holiday surveys.

    This weekend's was the third annual Small Business Saturday. According to NFIB's national survey of 1,000 men and women conducted on Saturday and Sunday, nearly half of those aware of the event shopped on Saturday.

    NFIB CEO Dan Danner said in a statement that support of small firms, retailers, restaurants,

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  • Still wondering what a fiscal cliff and healthcare proposals mean to you?

    infographic: National Federation of Independent Businesses

    Most small business owners will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow unsure of whether or not to be grateful for what's in store for them in the coming year. That's because few have any clear idea how the two biggest issues on the table in Washington today--the approaching fiscal cliff and the Affordable Care Act--will impact their small business next year. That's a recipe for indigestion.

    Government agencies and small business organizations are rising to the occasion to help you understand what might be in store for you if, indeed, the nation goes over the so-called cliff, and when the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect. Here are some resources they offer.

    The Affordable Care Act and your business

    The Department of Health and Human Services posted information to its website this summer to help entrepreneurs understand the implications of the Affordable Care Act specifically for small business. Now, the National Small Business Association is helping owners keep up

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