Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Secrets from the Scalerator: Incentivizing Crossover Sales

    Part 2 in a 4-part series about businesses that met the AmEx OPEN Scalerator challenge to grow their revenues 15 percent in three months.

    When ScaleUp Milwaukee brought the American Express OPEN Scalerator program to town last fall, Tom Dougherty, owner of Advanced Chemical Systems, was among 12 area business owners and managers who were accepted to enroll to learn how to scale up. Less than four months after completing the intensive two-month workshop, Dougherty has already translated what he learned into impressive results at his 12-person business. He attributes the sale of a $100,000 contract in November, as well as a 16 percent spike in his chemical sales since then, to the growth plan the Scalerator helped him conceive.

    “Every small business is trying to grow,” Dougherty says. “What prompted me to join the Scalerator were the specifics the leaders asked about my business during the interview. The professor did enough homework on us that it was like getting a personalized

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  • Secrets from the Scalerator: How Three Businesses Scaled Up Fast

    Leaders in Milwaukee began an initiative last year to spur economic growth by helping businesses in the region learn how to scale up. The payoffs are already coming and other metro regions ripe for revival are taking note.

    Yahoo Small Business reported here last year about the Rust Belt city’s “entrepreneurship ecosystem project” called Scale Up Milwaukee. Led by Babson College entrepreneurship professor Daniel Isenberg, the program has support from the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as funding from AmericanExpress OPEN for Enterprise: Coalitions for High-Growth Entrepreneurship. The AmEx program aims to foster high-growth entrepreneurship by giving select communities, starting with Milwaukee, the right resources and tools for a better entrepreneurial environment.

    Among the resources AmEx OPEN brought to Milwaukee last autumn was the Scalerator—a two-month series of two-day workshops

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  • A Valentine’s Shop Pops Up in Manhattan: It’s a Love Story

    New Yorkers have no excuse for coming home tonight with nothing more than bouquets from the bodega for their Valentines. The ever-changing theme boutique STORY is all about love this month, and features dozens of ways to shop small and local for your lover. STORY marketing gurus say their current curated shopping experience explores “love's capacity to inspire a work of art, delight the palette, surprise the nose, and even grow.”

    We reported here last summer about Rachel Shechtman, the retail industry consultant who is on a mission to elevate the consumer experience of the brick and mortar store to what she calls “translational storytelling.” STORY is her 2,000-square-foot shop on 10th Avenue at 19th Street in Manhattan that she says “has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store.”

    Shechtman swaps out the entire inventory and interior design every three to eight weeks, and managed to achieve profitability her first year, generating revenue

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  • Taxes, Insurance, Marketing: Brush Up in a Business Webinar

    National Entrepreneurship Week is coming up February 15-22, according to the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. And with most of the nation in a deep freeze, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up to your computer for some business training. Last month we presented a list of college-level online courses for entrepreneurs. For your February learning, here is a list of workshops being offered online this month that require far less commitment and offer the possibility of a quick payoff for your business.

    Thursday, Feb. 13, 1:00 pm ET
    Score Free Publicity for Your Business
    A one-hour seminar offered by BizLaunch to reveal the power of free publicity and how to get it. Learn how to tell stories the media want to cover, how to target the right media, how to write a media release, interview tips, and how to use free publicity to grow your brand.

    Thursday, Feb. 13, 1:00 pm ET
    Mobile and Website Conversion: Building Your Business for Clients on the Go
    Can potential buyers find your website

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  • Will “Made in Rural America” Initiative Help Your Business?

    Nearly 40 small businesses in sleepy villages from Oregon to New York are part of MaryJane Butters’ Project FARM—short for “First-class American Rural Made.” Butters, an organic farmer in northern Idaho, conceived the idea of putting a Project FARM label on qualified goods made in rural America as a way to support people "struggling to maintain a rural lifestyle" as "rural communities fade and farmers continue to disappear from our landscape."

    According to the Council of Economic Advisors, the American farming industry isn’t in such bad shape. The Council forecast net farm income at $131 billion in 2013. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 46 percent increase from 2008 and the highest net U.S. farm income since 1973.

    Still, the Farm Bill that President Obama signed on Friday includes a major new initiative to help small businesses in rural U.S. “The importance of the Farm Bill goes well beyond the role of agriculture, by providing technical assistance and financing for long-term

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  • Proto Labs Gives Entrepreneurs with Cool Ideas a Kickstart

    Floome, a handheld blood-alcohol detector, won a Cool Ideas Award

    For aspiring product designers, 201 Mulberry Street in New York City was the place to be last Thursday night. The Cool Idea Award Gallery event in the vacant storefront there showcased nine inventors and their novel products—each one clever enough to make you say, “I wish I had thought of that!”

    Proto Labs is a Minnesota-based maker of custom CNC-machined and injection-molded parts with operations worldwide that we reported on here last month. Its Cool Idea Award gives up to $250,000 each year in Proto Labs tooling services and parts production to entrepreneurs developing new products in the U.S. and Europe. Proto Labs says its intention is to help innovators bring their ideas to life. Seventeen awards have been made since 2011.

    The Everpurse cell-phone charging station is another Cool Ideas award winner

    The Cool Idea Award-winning products featured at the event last week were:

    • r-one: Robots that communicate with their users and with each other using an internal computer, motors, lights and sounds were designed by a Rice University professor and his students
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  • A Startup Wants to Deliver Happiness in Packets of Pills

    Twenty-seven-year-old entrepreneur TJ Parker wants to bring Zappos-style customer service to your medicine cabinet.

    As a youngster working in the New Hampshire pharmacy that his family owns and operates, Parker developed empathy for people who must take multiple pills, supplements, and other medicines every day. Refill dates never seem to be synchronized, pharmacy check-out lines can be long, and who wants to ask the pharmacist a private question with other customers in earshot? Even worse, medication times are hard to stick to, drugs are easily confused, and bottles can be a hassle to open. For the elderly, very ill, or parents with sick children, daily dosing can be misery.

    Parker went to pharmacy school bent on figuring out a modern solution to the growing problem. When he found one, he teamed up with Elliot Cohen, 30, a former Microsoft engineer whom he met at a H@cking Medicine event in October 2012. By February 2013, they had won a slot in the Boston startup accelerator

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  • Would Minimum Wage Hike Help or Hurt Small Business?

    President Obama said on Tuesday evening that he will raise the minimum wage for new federal contracts to $10.10 per hour. And, in the case that a Democratic proposal to raise the national minimum to the same level or where state governments haven’t already raised the minimum (as 14 states have this month), the President urged private sector employers to take the initiative to raise wages on their own.

    Many argue that the federal minimum of $7.25, unchanged since 2009, is not a living wage in the current economy. With the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.28 and a gallon of milk at $3.50, it’s hard to imagine how the 2 million or so people who earn that wage are able to support themselves, let alone families. MIT’s living wage calculator and anecdotal reports, including one describing a Hartford, Conn., Dunkin’ Donuts manager with three children, indicate they simply can’t.

    A CBSNews report this week pointed out that “adjusted for inflation, $7.25 an hour is 23 percent lower today

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  • 10 MOOCs for Entrepreneurs: Learn Online to Launch and Lead a Business

    For anyone who is thinking about building a new business, or already struggling to lead a startup, the expanding MOOC universe offers a wealth of opportunities to learn from entrepreneurs who've been there.

    Educational institutions all over the globe are offering MOOCs—massive open online courses—in almost any subject you can imagine. Many are free, and some offer course credits or certificates.

    Several online courses in the management category now offer guidance from experts on how to turn your great idea into a viable business, or take your startup to the next stage. With a few hours a week in front of a computer screen, you can glean lessons from top business school instructors and successful entrepreneurs.

    We pulled together this list of MOOCs targeted at aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders. For more online management courses, check out Coursera, NovoEd, iversity, and Udacity.

    1. Technology Entrepreneurship. Feb 2 – Mar 16. Award-winning Stanford University Assistant

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  • 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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