Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • What's Government's Role in Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems?

    Do you owe your company’s success to a business-friendly climate in your state or region? Has support from a network of business owners, or community bankers, or local government policies helped you grow?

    Creating a more entrepreneur-friendly environment in the U.S. was the topic of a roundtable discussion hosted this week by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The session was the third in a series that Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu has hosted to gather input that will inform entrepreneurship legislation she is expected to introduce this summer.

    Wednesday’s session, titled “Perspectives from the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Creating Jobs and Growing Businesses through Entrepreneurship,” asked panelists to comment on what role the government can play to nurture entrepreneurship in the U.S.

    Landrieu said her goal is to develop policies that will transform the U.S. into the most dynamic, finely tuned entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world. She cited a list of

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  • $5 million in revenues, 3 years in business, 4 lessons learned: Tips from a successful startup CEO

    Mike Silagadze sells his technology to college students instead of schoolsMike Silagadze was a graduate student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario when he started a company, Top Hat Monocle, in his living room three years ago. His business idea, based on his experience as an undergraduate in engineering, was to help professors better engage with students by leveraging the technology every one of them brought to class. Silagadze built an application to enable students to ask questions, respond to surveys, take pop quizzes, play with computer simulations, and interact with each other and a teaching assistant using their mobile devices.

    His product development completed, Silagadze began selling the Top Hat Monocle service in September 2010. After overcoming some early obstacles, today the company has 24 employees in offices in Toronto and San Francisco. More than 60,000 student customers at 80 universities worldwide pay $20 per semester to subscribe to the service. Top Hat Monocle has generated $1.2 million in revenues during the current schoolyear and is

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  • Why Congress hasn't simplified the home office tax deduction

    Only half of Americans who work from home and qualify for a home-office tax deduction actually claim it, says National Association for the Self Employed President & CEO Kristie Arslan. According to a survey conducted by the non-partisan organization, many self employed people forfeit the tax break because it's complicated to calculate and they fear that taking it will make them the target of an IRS audit.

    That's why, on behalf of her constituents, Arslan is imploring Congress and the Obama administration to add a standard $1,500 home-office deduction option to the U.S. tax code. Arslan calls her proposal the "Baffle Rule," as in "fix the baffling tax code." She says it would be a practical benefit to more Americans than President Obama’s so-called “Buffett Rule,” which seeks to ensure that the country's wealthiest individuals such as Warren Buffett don’t pay lower tax rates on their investment income than average earners pay on their wages.

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  • Have you claimed your small business healthcare tax credit?

    Are you eligible for the healthcare tax credit?If you're among the small business owners who will be spending your weekend with your tax accountant, there's still time to cash in on a credit you might be eligible for, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act.

    According to John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority, more than half of small business owners are unaware of a tax credit provided by healthcare reform legislation to small businesses that provide health insurance to employees. Those who are aware of it saved thousands of dollars on their 2010 tax returns, and expect to save as much this year. "Currently, businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees who pay at least 50 percent of total premiums are eligible for a credit of up to 35 percent of their premium contribution," Arensmeyer said, adding that in 2014, the benefit will jump to 50 percent contributions.

    Contrary to the argument that healthcare reform is costing small businesses more, Arensmeyer says employers like Nan Warshaw and Ron Nelsen are

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  • Crowdsourcing cuts costs for some, income for others

    does crowdsourcing design hurt artists?A Profit Minded post on Friday that explained how business owners could employ crowdsourcing to save money on small graphic design jobs was unwelcome information to one group of entrepreneurs: graphic designers. Not that the blog trumpeted anything all that new. Reporting on the trend in 2009, the New York Times quoted an MIT business school professor who said crowdsourcing is "one more step on the path to leveling the playing field between small and large businesses."

    But far from fair game, some graphic designers have come to see the practice as a threat to their livelihoods. It's not just Yahoo! readers who feel this way. A Wall Street Journal article on crowdsourced graphic design last year also drew designers' ire.

    Just as many American manufacturers have shipped jobs overseas to cut costs, small and large businesses are increasingly using crowdsourcing to find cheaper services in fields including computer programming, data analysis, accounting, and even, as some angry readers

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  • How to tap dozens of designers for the price of one

    As a business and technology reporter, I've written a lot over the past few years about how organizations are using crowdsourcing to get things done—from solving major scientific problems like protein folding, to translating urgent text messages sent by victims of the Haiti earthquake to English-speaking emergency workers.

    But I was reminded how relatively unknown this approach is to most business owners when the sole proprietor I eat dinner with every night had no idea what I meant when I suggested he "crowdsource" a new logo design. If, like him, you're not familiar with how to tap into crowdsourcing for the benefit of your business, here's an introduction. Take design tasks to the crowd

    The idea behind crowdsourcing is that, for certain creative tasks that you lack the manpower or resources to complete in-house, you can use one of a number of web-based crowdsourcing platforms to recruit help from "the crowd." The crowd can be virtually anyone who is qualified and willing to help. In the case of the

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  • JOBS Act is Law, What Now for Mom-and-Pop Shops?

    In the hours before President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law this afternoon, warnings of the bill’s faults were being trumpeted under headlines such as Ex-Con Man Says JOBS Act Makes Guys Like Him Rich and Could JOBS Act “Bring Fraud Back to Wall Street”?

    Nevertheless, after stating that the bi-partisan bill will make it easier for companies to go public, “remove barriers preventing entrepreneurs from getting funding,” and give “startups and small business … access to a big new pool of investors, namely the American people,” the President signed it into law at 2:45 pm today.

    So, now what? If you’re an owner of one of the small businesses the JOBS Act was designed to help, here’s what you need to know.

    1. The new law doesn’t take effect until the rules are established. The Securities and Exchange Commission has until January 2013 to define how the legislation will be enforced. Considering that SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has been vocally opposed to the law, rules to protect investors

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  • Another small business group stands up for Obamacare

    Many news outlets this week are speculating about how a Supreme Court decision to throw out the Affordable Care Act could affect election results. Regardless of how the Court's decision helps or hurts the incumbent or his GOP opponent, overturning Obamacare would be a disaster for small business, according to Frank Knapp, Jr., vice-chair of the American Sustainable Business Council.

    Though it was the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) that took its case against the Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court, the group did not speak for all business owners. The Small Business Majority, the Main Street Alliance, and the National Association for the Self Employed all disagree that the health care law should be overturned.Does Obamacare benefit small business?

    In an essay that appeared yesterday on the congressional news site The Hill, Knapp, who is also president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, piled on to the claim that NFIB's opposition to the Affordable Care Act does not

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  • Beat small biz bank loan odds: don’t commingle your credit

    As small business owners know, chances of getting a bank loan these days are slim. Banks are rejecting as many as 90 percent of all small business applications. Is there a way to beat the odds? Lena Gjonaj says the best way to position yourself for financing is to avoid the mistake virtually all entrepreneurs make: starting a business with personal credit.

    Everyone's heard a story of a successful startup that was financed with personal credit cards or a second mortgage. But today when those business owners want to expand, they can be in for a shock at the bank, says Gjonaj, a business funding consultant in Easton, Conn. Even if sales are rocketing, a business owner who hasn't taken the steps to establish business credit will likely find out that she's not in compliance with lender requirements.Loan officers look for proof of business credit

    One bank Gjonaj spoke with recently had denied a loan to a company that had plenty of customers but hadn't documented a corporate credit profile. "They couldn't prove any good corporate

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  • Compliance said to cost more than new e-commerce tax generates

    If yours is one of the 10 million small businesses that generated a share of the aggregate $194 billion in sales rung up online in 2011, you're likely aware that, new this year, the IRS requires merchant- and third-party-payment processors, such as PayPal and Square, to report on form 1099-K any income paid through their services to individuals and small businesses. And you might be interested in a report that appeared on TechCrunch yesterday under the headline, "New Government ePayment Regulation Costs Small Business $10 Billion."Complying with new e-commerce tax can be costly

    As TechCrunch contributor Steven Aldrich explains it:

    "The 1099-K form reports 'gross sales' made, without adjusting for items like fees, refunds, returns, or fraudulent transactions. … [B]usiness owners are saying that the gross sales number on the form is coming in much higher than they expected and is causing each business to spend significant time and money to get their taxes done correctly. …Without taking this new law into account, $140 billion and 3.5

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