SBA Kicks Off Young Entrepreneur Series

The White House and the U.S. Small Business Administration announced today the launch of the Young Entrepreneur Series (YES), which will connect young and aspiring entrepreneurs with SBA officials, local business advisors and resources to help them start or grow their own small business. 

“For our economy to thrive in the 21st century, we must set about creating the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns.  “Young Americans need to know that starting a business is a viable alternative to going to work for somebody else.  There is a clear and urgent need to create more jobs for young Americans, and encouraging business ownership is an important way to meet that goal.” 

SBA will hold five YES forums that will reach a broad audience, including young veterans, urban and rural entrepreneurs, and others.  

Dates and locations include:

  • November 7, San Diego, Calif., Veteran Young Entrepreneurs
  • November 9, Ames, Iowa, Rural Young Entrepreneurs
  • November 17, Charlotte, N.C., Young Entrepreneurs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions
  • November 29, Tahlequah, Okla., Native American Young Entrepreneurs
  • December  1, Milwaukee, Wis., Apprenticeship to Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship among young people remains below average and young entrepreneurs face unique challenges.  With youth unemployment twice the national average in many communities, particularly communities of color and veterans, the Obama administration recognizes a need to promote and better support the efforts of young people to create jobs for themselves and others. 

Many SBA programs, such as microloans, business counseling and training, are useful to young entrepreneurs.  The YES forums are part of a larger effort to reach out to young people and let them know the federal government has tools to help them start, grow and succeed as small business owners.  

The forums will be livestreamed at www.sba.gov/youngentrepreneurs.  Participants can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #SBAyes.  For more information or to watch the forums live, visit www.sba.gov/youngentrepreneurs.

Advertisements

Entrepreneurship – the Loneliest Adventure

A recent blog article by one of my fellow Michigan entrepreneurs,  Nancy Sherman of southwest Michigan-based Business Success Unlimited, caught my attention recently as she pointed out some of the pros and cons of going into business for yourself. As any of those who’ve done it know, the costs (not including financial) can be very high – but so can the rewards.

In her article she pointed out one of the issues I hear about most often from entrepreneurs, the isolation.  They don’t have anyone else they can talk things over with to help make the decisions they need to make.  In previous corporate lives, they had co-workers, bosses, or employees – now they have themselves, especially when they’re just starting out or if they’re running a virtual business. And that can be difficult. Not that they’re depending on others to give them the answers, but we all know, sometimes it can help just to talk it thru with an impartial party.  Nancy’s article pointed out an interesting solution that I would recommend all small business owners explore for themselves. Learn about it below, and if you’d like a referral to a co-working center, I bet Nancy would be happy to help you out, just reach out to her at Nancy@thessbi.com .

_____________________________________________________________

In my 30 years of being an entrepreneur, I have spent time in my home office, in my brick and mortar office and in the coffee shops and restaurants around my town. Each has their own good points and bad, but I think the thing that I like least about any of it, is that I have no one to share with, no one to talk to except the cats.

I was married for 22 years to a really great guy (we’ve probably got the best divorce ever — we’re still great friends), but he just didn’t get it. He would tell me, why don’t you get a real job. You’re home all day, why don’t you do the housework, or cook or clean or whatever. I couldn’t talk to him about the isolation, about the needs for others to be around. When the office phone would ring at 11 at night, he’d complain because I didn’t answer it, and when people showed up at my front door at 7 am on Sunday morning, there would be more complaining. Then when I got a “Real” office and had monthly rent to pay (to the tune of $5000), he’d shake his head and say things like “here we go again. You’re just playing dress up”.

It was not easy. And he was not alone in saying — and thinking — such things. My best friend was right there with him. She works for the government and has tried since the ’90s, to get me to apply for a job there as well. “But what about the benefits? The health insurance? The regular schedule? The paycheck? These are all valid questions, but when you’re an entrepreneur, someone who wants to do it for him or herself, these are really irritating comments.

If you’re like me, you get the frustration of being alone and want to find someone else who also “gets it” to talk to, to share with, to be close to. But how do you do this? You can go hang out at the coffee shops, spend money on drinks and pastries, and maybe talk with someone else for a few minutes, but you don’t really find friendship or business collaboration there. The same is true for a library or restaurant. And how comfortable is it to hold meetings in your home office?

Well, now there’s a great new way to work on your own business while being in the company of like-minded individuals who are also working on their own businesses. It’s a place to rejuvenate your thoughts and ideas, a place to work on the Internet, to get help and support from administrative professionals, a place to sit and chat in the lounge, meeting rooms, private conference rooms, kitchens — all the amenities of an office space without the cost and politics of businesses. It’s a co-work center and they’re springing up all over the world; not just this country but literally around the world. If you’re a homebased business, a freelancer, or travel for your company, find one and check it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

President Obama Proclaims National Small Business Week Small Businesses Helping To Put Country Back On Track

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama hailed small business owners as the backbone of the nation’s economy in his proclamation of the week of May 15-21 as National Small Business Week. The President declared them to be the embodiment of America’s promise: “the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard enough, you can succeed in our country.”

The President’s proclamation was issued before the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 48th annual observance of National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C.  (May 18-20).  The event honors outstanding entrepreneurs from across the country, and features announcement of the 2011 National Small Business Person of the Year, who is selected from among 54 small business award winners from 50 states, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The President’s proclamation states: “Our country started as an idea, and it took hard-working, dedicated, and visionary patriots to make it a reality.  A successful business starts much the same way—ideas realized by entrepreneurs who dream of a better world and work until they see it through.  From the family businesses that anchor Main Street to the high-tech startups that keep America on the cutting edge, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of America’s promise. 

“Throughout our economic recovery, persevering small businesses have helped put our country back on track.  Countless new and saved jobs have come from small businesses who took advantage of tax relief, access to capital, and other tools in the Recovery Act, the Small Business Jobs Act, and other initiatives launched by my Administration to put Americans back to work.  To ensure the stability of our recovery, we must continue to provide new opportunities for small business owners and the next generation of entrepreneurs, who will help us out-innovate and out-build our global competitors to win the future.

“To support high-growth businesses, my Administration has launched Startup America, an initiative that will strengthen access to capital and mentoring while reducing barriers to growth for small businesses.  Entrepreneurship is essential to the strength and resilience of our economy and our way of life.  Startup America will give entrepreneurs the tools they need to build their business into the next great American company.  To encourage innovation, we released the Strategy for American Innovation, a report outlining my Administration’s plan to harness ingenuity.  This means investing in the building blocks of innovation, like education and infrastructure, while promoting market-based growth through tax credits and effective intellectual property laws.        

“The National Export Initiative is working to open markets to American businesses and support small exporters, who increase American competitiveness abroad and create good jobs here at home.  We continue to create opportunity for businesses in underserved communities through new lending initiatives, expanded access to counseling and technical assistance. We are also working to provide small businesses more opportunities to compete for Federal contracts. This gives Federal agencies access to some of our country’s best products and services while helping these businesses grow and employ community members.  Through these and other initiatives, we are supporting the entrepreneurs and small businesses that provide work for half of American workers and create two out of every three new jobs.

“Small businesses embody the promise of America: that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard enough, you can succeed in our country.  This week, we honor and celebrate the individuals whose inspiration and efforts keep America strong.” 

 Full text of the President’s National Small Business Week proclamation .

National Small Business Week 2011 will be highlighted with two-and-a-half days of events in Washington, D.C., at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where more than 100 outstanding business owners from across the country will be recognized.  In addition to the State Small Business Persons of the Year, men and women involved in disaster recovery, government contracting, small business champions as well as SBA partners in financial and entrepreneurial development will be honored.

Under the National Small Business Week 2011 theme of “Empowering Entrepreneurs,” featured speakers include Senator Jack Reed (D – Rhode Island); Senator Mary Landrieu (D – Louisiana); Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama; Steve Case, Co-Founder of AOL and Chair of Start-Up America Partnership; Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson of Radio One, and Chair of SBA’s Council on Underserved Communities; SBA Administrator Karen Mills and SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns.

A complete agenda for the event is posted at www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com. Also featured are a series of executive panel forums on Strategies for High Growth, Exporting and Social Media.  The public can “attend” Small Business Week events virtually, via the SBA’s streaming video

Small Business Week 2011 cosponsors include: Association of Small Business Development Companies, AT&T, AVAYA, CareerBuilder, Dun & Bradstreet, Google, International Franchise Association, Intuit, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, National Association of Development Companies,  National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, National Association of Small Business Investment Companies, National Association for the Self-Employed, National Small Business Association, Nomadic Display, Northrop Grumman, Office Depot, Raytheon, Sam’s Club, SCORE, The Neat Company, Verio, Visa, the Wall Street Journal, and Women Impacting Public Policy.

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Business Owner?

A frequent question we at Strategic Growth Concepts receive from small business owners, or potential small business owners is “How do I know if I can do this?  Do I have what it takes to own my own business?”.  And we have a lot of answers that we give in response that take into account their particular situation, and many tools that we use to help someone evaluate their potential success as small business owners.  However, I recently came across a list developed by Anne Mueller for American Express Open Forum entitled, ’10 Signs You Shouldn’t be a Small Business Owner’ that really caught my attention. 

When I clicked on the link I expected to see the usual, “make sure you have money to survive, make sure you’ve written a business plan, and make sure you have a survival ‘plan b'”, but that’s not what I found.  Instead I found an insightful list of items designed to help you take an in-depth look at yourself and your situation to determine if you have any chance of being successful as a business owner. It required the reader to be completely honest with himself/herself.

As any business owner (successful or otherwise) and any business consultant can tell you, owning a business of any size (even if its only you) is hard, really hard.  It requires sacrifice, and self-discipline, hard work, focus, and the ability to be many things to many people – most of which you have no idea how to be – and many times you have to be them all at once. So being a business owner is definitely not for everyone, and it is certainly a good idea to evaluate yourself and your personal situation honestly before taking the step of becoming one.  In our opinion, this article “10 Signs You Shouldn’t Be a Small Business Owner” is a must-read to help you make that decision, and it’s going into our ‘toolbox’ for use with our own clients.  We recommend you read it as well.

Your New Year’s Resolution for Your Business

I had someone ask me today about their business, “If I could do one thing better, what would it be?”.  As a business consultant, I am frequently asked some version of this question, but today it got me thinking that the start of a new year is probably a great time to pass along one of the answers to that question that I give to everyone who asks it of me.  Are you ready?  Here it comes!

Resolve for 2011 to fully embrace technology and to completely integrate it thoughout every aspect of your business; from your marketing, to how you work with and interact with clients and staff, to how you manage your administrative tasks and actually operate your business, etc.

What I mean by this is:  integrate and take advantage of all the benefits that today’s technologies have to offer, including:  webinars and other types of virtual events (including virtual environment events), social media, mobile technology (and I don’t just mean mobile marketing), cloud computing software options, and any other type of technology that will help you increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability. 

Those that don’t choose to embrace technology will be left behind very quickly because 2011, I believe, will be a ‘game-changing’ year for how business is being conducted.  If you continue to do business as you always have, you will very quickly become irrelevant.

Think about your business in a new way, for example:

  • could mobile technology enable your customers to order and pay for your products or services via their cell phone?
  • can you use social media to interact with your customers and potential customers on a more in-depth level so you can be certain you’re providing the products and services they need?
  • will location-based technologies enable you to more effectively target potential customers?
  • can you make your field staff more productive by dispatching them with tools provided by GPS mobile technology?
  • can you get more immediate response to special offers by sending them directly to your existing customers via their cell phones?
  • can cloud-computing technology allow you to access information from wherever you are as long as you have some sort of mobile computing device or a computer available?
  • can you be more available to your staff for those decisions only you can make if you’ve embraced the use of a SmartPhone or tablet device?
  • can you cut down on travel costs, and yet increase the number of people that you can effectively interact with to present your products or services by engaging in virtual sales and training programs?
  • can bluetooth or QR code mobile technologies help your firm in the manufacturing or supply chain processes?
  • can mobile marketing technologies make your marketing more effective?
  • can mobile technology help you increase the viability of the leads you receive at the next trade show you participate in?
  • can participating in virtual trade shows help you decrease travel costs for your staff, and the ‘down time’ that results from that travel, while increasing the number of viable leads you receive?
  • could social media, mobile and virtual technology increase your ability to recruit new employees with higher rates of effectiveness?

So far, I’ve not found one business that I’ve spoken with or worked with that would not be positively impacted by increased integration of technology in their business.  Given that, I now challenge you to consider how technology can help to improve your business – and as a result, your life.  If you would like some assistance in evaluating your business and the options available to you, please contact us, Strategic Growth Concepts is here to help!

Here’s to increased efficiency, productivity and profitability in 2011!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Very interesting article on a related topic on TechCrunch; click here to read, ‘Seven Technologies That Will Rock 2011’

___________________________________________________________

The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant for Strategic Growth Concepts, a marketing / management consulting firm focused on start-up, small and mid-sized businesses.  Areas of specialization include:  mobile technology optimization and marketing for increased productivity and profitability, social media marketing, and virtual events production.  Linda is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years of experience in a wide variety of industries.  She is also the Founder of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan, a mobile industry trade association, and the Co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan, a mobile industry networking and education organization.

Linda is available for consultation, and can be contacted at Linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com.  The company website can be viewed at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com

It’s Time to Register For ACE ‘11 (Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship)

The Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship is the place where Great Lakes region entrepreneurs gather to network, learn, and connect. Each year at ACE you’ll join an exciting, forward-thinking community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders – people like you who have the vision and drive to build new ventures for a new future. 

2011 will be the eleventh year for ACE! Each year the event gets bigger and better.  With more space at Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School, we will be showcasing more companies than ever, and will have more participation from regional support organizations. Combined with the anticipated 1200+ attendees, this year’s event will deliver extraordinary value, learning and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, funding sources and partners alike. 

Program Includes:

  • A Showcase Presentation by Chuck Newman – CEO of ReCellular
  • The ACE Elevator Pitch Competition: Six pitches, judged by an investor panel with the winner recognized
  • Four Interactive Workshops With Enough Time to Attend Multiple Sessions: What Came First: Innovation or Opportunity?  Ask the Expert Where You Can Raise Your Own Questions.  The Entrepreneurs Search for Funding. From Idea to Business.
  • Exhibit Hall with Entrepreneurial Company Displays 
  • Presentation of Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest Awards
  • Refreshments and Networking 

Where: Skyline High School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 

When: 2:00 – 9:00 p.m. , January 31, 2011

Cost: $11 with pre-registration 

For more info: www.ace-event.org

Follow us: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn 

SBA Unveils New Website and Launches SBA Direct – A New Tool Delivering Personalized and Targeted Resources

WASHINGTON – As part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s mission to ensure that small business owners and entrepreneurs have access to accurate, timely and helpful information, SBA Administrator Karen Mills today unveiled a newly re-designed SBA website. The new site also features the launch of SBA Direct, a dynamic new web tool with a variety of personalization features that will help small businesses start-up, succeed and grow.

“With the launch of the new SBA.gov, we have reached a significant milestone in how the agency has evolved in using interactive web tools, social media and blogs to engage with, and better meet the needs of small business owners,” said SBA Administrator, Karen Mills. “While the SBA website has traditionally been an information-rich site, we wanted to make it easier for small business owners to navigate. With the new improved SBA.gov, business owners can access the answers they need, specific to their business profile, in an instant – it truly presents the face of the future of SBA.”

While the site features a variety of enhancements including a full re-design, new content, and improved navigation, the centerpiece is a dynamic new web tool called SBA Direct. 

SBA Direct allows visitors to personalize their browsing experience according to their business type, geography and needs.  SBA Direct then delivers relevant and targeted information on all aspects of running a business such as the steps involved in getting started, business growth strategies, and how to stay compliant with current laws and regulations. SBA Direct also provides information on the available SBA programs that can help businesses succeed, such as financial assistance, exporting and government contracting opportunities, counseling and training.

 “Transforming the SBA into a proactive, responsive and ‘customer-centric’ organization that better serves the needs of the nation’s more than 29 million small businesses is an exciting, yet enormous effort,” said Mills.  “We’ve made significant progress, and the new SBA.gov is just one example among many, including record growth capital financing, expedited loan approvals and the acceleration of disaster assistance resources and funds of how SBA has, and will continue to support the growth of small businesses and job creation.”

Other new features to the web site include:

  • SBA’s small business search that improves the accuracy and relevancy of search results —saving time and frustration.
  • Improved navigation that gives users one-click access to the information they need. Combined with the personalization features of SBA Direct, users no longer have to mine through pages of information to find answers.
  • Integration of Business.gov content including a variety of guides and tools that collate information from across government agencies to help business owners comply with laws and regulations, and take advantage of government programs.
  • Interactive location-based maps that allow users to quickly find small business resources in their area, including local SBA offices, and other sources of training and support.
  • User-rated content gives visitors to the site direct control in determining the most useful and relevant information to feature by small business topic.

SBA’s commitment to using web services to provide small businesses with greater access to the pool of government resources available began in 2006 with the launch of the award-winning Business.gov website, and later with the Business.gov Community initiative in 2009 (the first government-sponsored online community built specifically for small businesses), and more recently with SBA’s own social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The new SBA.gov built on these achievements and best practices as a driver for its transformation.  The project is also a flagship for the agency’s Open Government Plan, with the goal of building an online presence for SBA that is transparent, participatory and collaborative.