Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Storm Insurance

Sandy-damaged small businesses will need to recoup massive repair expenses. Here's my Q&A with an insurance litigator who specializes in disaster response.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mom Solutions

Last month, I wrote about mompreneurs and how they handle maternity leave. Big surprise: They work through it.

Not much of a surprise to me, actually.

I did take about six weeks with my first son, in 1989, because I was on leave from my newspaper job and getting some benefits.

But by the time my second son was born (21 years ago this week!), I was an entrepreneur. Maternity leave? Not so much.

I'll never forget the shock in my editor's voice as he asked, as we worked through a final story draft on the telephone: "Karen ... are you in the hospital!?"

Well ... yes, I was! The thing I couldn't get him to understand is that the 48 hours after birth was likely to be the most relaxing downtime I would get for months. Heck, there was a whole nursery staff working around the clock to take care of my baby!

I heard from another mompreneur after that initial column ran and I've been meaning to share it here. This feedback is from Laura Mather, founder of Silver Tail Systems, an anti-fraud startup that yesterday was acquired by data storage giant EMC.

Laura is the former director of fraud prevention at eBay and a former analyst with the NSA. She recently had a baby:

Thanks for the great article, Karen.  As a female entrepreneur who just had a baby, I can definitely relate to the issues around maternity leave and making sure the business continues to run well.  For me, there were a few ways to address this.  One key helper (which can also be a complication) is that I'm married to my co-founder.  Because of this my husband has a great understanding of the demands on my time and we can often cover for each other when needed.  
One strategy I took to make maternity leave easier was to split up my maternity leave.  My son was born on Dec. 13, 2011 (two weeks early!) and I was able to take 10 weeks off through late February.  
Unfortunately, there was a critical conference at the end of February that I had to attend, and that governed when I went back to work. Dividing my maternity leave has made it so that I could take a reasonable amount of time off without being gone for extended periods of time.The next thing I did was make sure the company was up and running before having a child.  This is not an option for everyone, but my husband and I knew we wanted children, but we decided to delay having children until we had given two years to the company.    
Finally, I have been working part-time since the baby was born.  My husband likes to joke that my going part-time was the only way he could get me to limit my work to 40 hours per week, but that has definitely made my life better.

Thanks for the feedback, Laura, and congrats on the acquisition - way to go!

Meet the Vegepreneurs

Vegetarian entrepreneurs are moving beyond restaurants and into fashion, furniture and myriad other companies.

What motivates them and how do they view their competitors? Check out my column this week.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Struggling to Save

Working until you are in your 80's? Pretty tough for the one-third of Americans who now say they are delaying retirement later and later.

As they struggle to save for retirement, a growing number of middle-class Americans plan to postpone their golden years until they are in their 80's. Nearly one-third, or 30%, now plan to work until they are 80 or older -- up from 25% a year ago, according to a Wells Fargo survey of 1,000 adults with income less than $100,000.
It's sad and a sign of desperation. Yes, we're living longer and we're healthier than previous generations. But realistically, not many of us will have the physical stamina or cognitive skills to continue as octogenarians.

Let's not mention the idea of the "golden years," when we're supposed to get the chance to pursue hobbies, volunteer time to cherished causes, travel, visit with grandkids or write those memoirs.

How can we do that with numbers like this?:
About 34% of middle-class Americans expect their retirement income to be 50% or less of their current annual income. Given Census Bureau data showing a median household income of $50,054 in 2011, this would mean living on roughly $25,000 or less per year -- which is near the poverty line for a family of four, the report found.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing for Business

Looking for a marketing writer or communications expert for your small business? You can't go wrong with my friend Kim Dixon Perez.  Check out her new website and blog, it's great.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Alternative Funding Sources

Half of angel money goes to medical devices, software, and biotechnology. What other sources are there for startup funding?

To glean would-be entrepreneurs’ ideas, I spoke to the founders of three startups. One got a loan from a micro-lender. Businesses such as Microsoft (MSFT) chipped in technology and services for the second. The last founder did manage to get rich folks to bet on her by joining a network that supports women who run promising growth businesses.

Check out this week's column!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You're Fired

Employment discrimination claims and wrongful termination suits are up since the Great Recession. Get a lesson from the experts on how to respond.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Congrats, Boss!

I'm very proud to be a part of this journalistic success story in the new-media age.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Take It or Lease It

Negotiating a commercial lease is one of the most financial consequential - and probably least-prepared-for aspect of small business.

Check out my tips on how startups can get the best deal possible when signing a lease.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Taxpocalypse 2012

Tax planning is at an all-time level of complexity this year, what with an election and a "fiscal cliff" looming.

In this column, I run through a few details small business owners will want to discuss with their accountants before year's end.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Obamacare 2013

New health care reform provisions will roll out in 2013. How many affect small business owners and the self-employed?

I run through a list - and examine a couple of interesting new studies - in this week's column.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wise Up

Having women in senior executive positions helps start-ups succeed. That's not just anecdote or common sense anymore, it's been shown in a Dow Jones analysis.

My colleague John Tozzi asks when venture capital firms - notorious "old boys clubs" - will sit up and take notice.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bad, Bad Customer

Every small business owner has experienced it: The customer who gets the product or service and then "forgets" to pay the invoice.

A Long Island business owner is fed up with these serial offenders ("rich kleptomaniacs" he calls them) and he's fighting back.

Read about his website, in my column this week.