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.

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 .

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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.

What do Apple Computer, Hershey’s, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the Ford Motor Company have in common?

WASHINGTON – What do Apple Computer, Hershey’s, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the Ford Motor Company have in common? These well-known corporations all started out as home-based businesses. In fact, more than half of all U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home.  Starting a home-based business has many rewards as well as challenges. Join chat host Boyd Wright to learn what it takes to grow a successful home-based business.

WHO:  Home-based business champion and small business owner Boyd Wright will host the July Web chat on “Growing a Home-Based Business: What You Need to Know.”  Chat participants can get valuable insight from Wright and learn more about working out of your house, starting a home-based business and managing the business within the law. Wright will answer questions on how to grow a home-based business, the benefits and the challenges.

WHAT:  SBA’s web chat series provides small business owners with an opportunity to discuss relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs.  Chat participants have direct, real-time access to the web chats via questions they submit online in advance, and during the live session.  Chat participants can receive helpful tips and advice on how to grow their businesses.

WHEN:  July 28, 2011, 1 p.m. ET

Wright will answer questions for one hour.      

HOW:  Web chat participants can post questions online in advance and on July 28, join the live web chat by going online to www.sba.gov, and click on the web chat event under What’s New. 

To review archives of past web chats, visit online at http://www.sba.gov/tools/monthlywebchat/index.html

SBA Introduces New Mobile Application for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

New SBA mobile application brings enhanced access to information and resources

Smart phone users interested in starting or growing a small business can now find helpful resources at their fingertips via a new SBA mobile application from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Increasingly, smart phones are the vehicle through which Americans access information.  This is certainly true of many entrepreneurs and small business owners and this new application ensures they will have access to SBA’s resources and programs – literally at their fingertips,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills.  “Greater mobility fits with the new user-focused SBA.gov launched recently, and is another example of the steps we are taking to do a better job of connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools to help them start or grow their businesses and create jobs.”

Developed and donated as a gift by Palo Alto Software, Inc., the SBA mobile app will make the search for extensive resources more efficient, whether users are starting a new business or taking an existing business to a new level.  The app will first be available for the Apple iPhone®, with future versions for other smart phone platforms.

“Palo Alto Software’s mission is to help small businesses succeed.  We’ve developed this mobile application for the SBA because we understand the importance of having the right tools and resources when starting or growing a business,” said Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software.  “Ideas can strike entrepreneurs at any moment, and having useful resources available through mobile devices could be the impetus that begins the next big company.”

The mobile app will help users connect with SBA district office staff and SBA-affiliated counselors and mentors who can provide free, personalized small business assistance.  The user-friendly format of the app will help answer questions such as: 

  • How do I start a business? 
  • Where can I go in my area to get free help with writing a business plan? 
  • And where do I begin finding funding for my business?

The SBA mobile app also features a built-in startup cost calculator to help estimate the costs associated with getting a business off the ground, plus an SBA partner locator to help users find SBA offices, Small Business and Technology Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE.

Users will also have mobile access to SBA video content and social media alerts to provide them with tips on the go.  This will include live updates from the SBA’s YouTube channel and from SBA’s Twitter feeds.  The free mobile app can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/content/sba-mobile-app .

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.

$1 Million Business Plan Contest Returns to Michigan

One of the world’s richest business plan competitions is coming back to Michigan this fall.

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, supported through the collaborative efforts of the founders, the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan and the New Economy Initiative of Southeast Michigan and the premier sponsors, Business Leaders for Michigan and the University Research Corridor, will return Nov. 16 and 17.

Cash winnings, plus in-kind awards of services, staffing and software valued at more than $1 million will be awarded to top entrepreneurial businesses that make a commitment to locate and grow in Michigan. The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition includes a competition for college students with innovative business ideas.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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.