Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Ready for small business Saturday?

    Small Business Administration Deputy Administrator Marie Johns reminds shoppers in an op-ed for the Washington Post today not to spend all their holiday gift dollars at the big box stores on Black Friday or online shopping on Cyber Monday. In between them is the American Express-inspired Small Business Saturday, November 24. Is your business doing what it can to take advantage of the opportunity to get new customers in the door this weekend?

    With free tools and materials available for download, it's not too late. Here are some ways you can still get in on the event:

    • If your business accepts American Express, you qualify to download free customized in-store signage, online banners, and templates for social media or email from American Express Shop Small.
    • Even if you don't accept American Express, a Shop Small poster and other free marketing materials are available for download here.
    • Waste no time writing your own Tweets or Facebook posts to promote Small Business Saturday to your
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  • Small businesses on fiscal cliff roller coaster

    In a post-election panel discussion Monday evening this week, the Economist's Matthew Bishop asked five Washington insiders whether they believe Congress and President Obama will arrive at a deficit reduction plan in time to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Tax increases and spending cuts will automatically go into effect in the absence of such a plan on January 1.

    The panelists at a technology industry conference represented a spectrum of political ideologies: Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes, a two-time GOP presidential nominee; Hill + Knowlton Strategies U.S. President and CEO Dan Bartlett, who was White House Communications director under George W. Bush; AOL founder Steve Case, Chairman of President Obama's Startup America Partnership; Markle Foundation President Zoe Baird, former associate counsel to Jimmy Carter and a Clinton nominee for Attorney General; and Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Media.

    All five panelists, Republicans and Democrats alike, said they

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  • Questions remain about equity crowdfunding rules

    In the run-up to the enactment of the JOBS Act, passed by Congress in April 2012, officials are scrambling to meet their January 2013 deadline for nailing down regulations for equity-based crowdfunding portals, which will be legalized by the bill. Proponents of the new fundraising method predict that it will make as much as $300 billion in investment capital available to entrepreneurs to start new businesses.

    More than 70 crowdfunding industry stakeholders participated in a discussion on rulemaking with Securities Exchange Commission and White House officials in Washington yesterday.

    But the conversation made clear that many details remain to be sorted out before the legislation goes into effect. Joining the conference by phone or in person were industry pioneers including SoMoLend founder Candace Klein, International Crowd Funding Association board chairman Mark Jones, Jason Burmer of EarlyShares, A KickIn Crowd founder Tony Reynolds, RocketHub COO Jed Cohen, and Crowdnetic founder

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  • Experts see exports opportunities for small services businesses

    Business services are big business in the U.S., but they're missing out on major opportunities overseas, say experts. How to increase exports for small- and medium-sized businesses was the focus of a discussion at a tech conference in Tucson this week.

    Zoe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, which pursues tech solutions for healthcare and national security, moderated the discussion at Techonomy12, a meeting of tech industry CEOs and investors. She said that as technology and networks are lowering barriers to markets worldwide, a new focus on exports, especially from the service sector, could be a way to create jobs and reverse the flow of the outsourcing pipeline that is exporting jobs. By taking advantage of internet and cloud capabilities, exporting services can be done largely from home without sending U.S. employees overseas, she noted.

    Baird asked a panel that included Bradford Jensen of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and Ambassador Miriam Sapiro,

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  • Pessimistic small business owners react to election

    Which of the following describes how you feel about the general economic outlook for your business now that the presidential election has been decided? More optimistic, less optimistic, or exactly the same? Judging by reader responses to our post-election post in this blog, SmallBizVote readers largely agree with the 59 percent of the 1,227 small business owners surveyed immediately after the election by Manta who say "less optimistic." Only 23 percent of respondents to that survey said they feel "more optimistic."

    Several commenters to our blog suggested that they would be making layoffs, selling their companies, or entering retirement due to the hardships they foresee during four more years of Obama Administration policies.

    Some might sympathize with a Las Vegas business owner who, as Salon reported today, fired 22 of his 100+ employees after the election, citing the cost of Obama's policies to his business. Or they might applaud the CEO of the country's largest coal company, Robert

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  • Short- and long-term cash access strategies for small biz

    A recent Profit Minded post featured our conversation with Jay DesMarteau, head of small business banking at TD Bank, about how small business owners can face down financial stress with a real-world financial plan. Here, in part two of our interview, DesMarteau shares advice for accessing capital when you need it. He offers tips for setting yourself up to get through temporary periods when expenses outweigh revenues, as well as for planning for long-term growth.

    Following DesMarteau's earlier advice for putting a financial plan in place will help you identify the gaps in your business cycle—whether they be week-long or month-long intervals—when you will not have enough income to cover your costs. "These are times when you don't have money coming from customers on the revenue side but your expenses are still there," DesMarteau says. "You have to pay employees, and you might have to buy inventory that takes time to convert into a product you can sell."

    Of course, business owners can

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  • Election uncertainty over for small businesses; now what?

    Throughout campaign season, many small business owners reported paralysis over pursuing growth or hiring due to uncertainty about what kind of administration they'd face for the next four years. Would ObamaCare be repealed? Would the regulatory environment ease up? Would tax rates increase?

    This morning, no question remains about who will lead the country for the next four years, and it's more likely than ever that the Affordable Care Act will remain in tact.

    But much uncertainty remains. Small businesses still can't be sure just what the new health care act will cost them come 2014 when it goes into full effect. And yesterday's election outcome brought virtually no change to the partisan split on Capitol Hill, with Republicans ruling the House and Democrats ruling the Senate, which leaves great uncertainty about the so-called fiscal cliff and tax rates.

    Of that status, the Wall Street Journal editors this morning warned:

    "Mr. Obama will now have to govern the America he so

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  • Self-employed head to polls with unanswered questions

    NASE's Facebook button

    With only three days to go before they head to the polls, self-employed voters are disappointed with the Presidential candidates, each of whom made small business owners a centerpiece of his platform. Katie Vlietstra, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association for the Self-Employed, says the organization submitted 10 questions in September to President Obama and Governor Romney's campaigns on behalf of the nation's 22 million sole proprietors and micro-business owners—a group she says represents more than 70 percent of the small business community.

    NASE, which is non-partisan and does not endorse a candidate, promised to use the candidates' answers to educate and inform its membership about the positions of each on small business taxes and economic recovery "so that they may make the best decision for their business in November." But November is here and the answers never came.

    To be fair, Vlietstra acknowledges that hundreds of constituent groups submit

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  • Business in a hurricane disaster area? Here’s SBA loan info

    The most-visited item on the Small Business Administration's loan information website today is the Disaster Loan Application. SBA announced yesterday that various disaster recovery loan programs will become available to eligible applicants as disaster assessments and declarations are made.

    President Obama has already declared disaster areas in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and additional announcements are expected.

    If your small business sustained physical damage or "economic injury" as a result of Hurricane Sandy, you may be eligible for SBA assistance. Businesses must submit loan applications directly to SBA in order to get an inspector to estimate damages. SBA says it strives to make decisions within 18 days, and advises against waiting for insurance settlements before applying for an SBA loan in order to avoid missing filing deadlines. The application-filing deadline for physical damage loans is December 31, 2012. The deadline for economic injury loans is July 31, 2013.

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  • Socially networked small businesses help customers navigate storm

    Connecticut farmer Patti Popp used Facebook during the storm to ask customers to keep an eye out for row covers that blew away.

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, power was cut to every resident in the Connecticut village of Easton, where more than 100 trees had fallen on utility wires. Even most of those with generators to power their homes couldn't get TV news or listen to the reverse-911 calls placed by the town's first selectman. Throughout town, phones, internet, and cable service were knocked out by the storm.

    Nevertheless, news flowed among neighbors over Twitter, Facebook, and email about open restaurants, businesses offering wifi access, where to buy a bottle of wine, and which local service stations weren't yet sold out of gas. An unofficial "mommy network" shared knowledge about open movie theatres and other activities for kids home from school for at least a week. And tragically, news that an Easton fireman had died in the line of duty during the storm circulated so quickly that many residents knew the hero's name before local newspapers published it online.

    Smart small business owners who

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