Friday, March 30, 2012

Winning Women


The deadline is April 30 for applicants to the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women competition. You can apply for yourself or nominate a deserving woman entrepreneur.

I've written in the past about how few women enter business contests. In fact, so few enter general business contests that sponsors like Ernst & Young have created programs specifically for women.

Now, a case study from Babson College shows that contest winners have created significant job and revenue growth during the worst years of the recession. Program participants’ companies have grown almost 50 percent each year on average, with a corresponding average annual job growth rate of more than 25 percent, according to the case study.

To apply for the program, applicants must fit the following criteria:

Founding woman CEO of a privately held US company
Company must have reported at least $1 million in sales within each of the last 2 years
Venture must be less than 10 years old
Entrepreneur must be able to attend an orientation and coaching session in New York City on October 10-11, 2012, and the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, November 14-18, 2012, in Palm Springs, CA.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Make a Match


The U.S. Small Business Administration is hosting a Mentor-Protégé Matchmaking Conference series that gives small, disadvantaged businesses access to guidance on federal contracting, face-to-face meetings and opportunities to team with larger businesses and graduates of the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program.

During the forums, small businesses will learn how to market themselves to the federal government and go after government contracting opportunities.  They will also get an overview of the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé program – a tool of the SBA’s 8(a) program that encourages mentors to team with a protégé or smaller firm to help them with management and technical assistance, financial assistance and access to joint ventures and federal contracting opportunities.

Small disadvantaged businesses and 8(a) firms interested in attending must register at: http://sba.mybusinessmatches.com/buyers/generalinfo. Approximately 300 small businesses will be matched prior to their meetings based on their compatibility.

The upcoming conference cities are scheduled as follows:

•       Chicago, Ill. (April 5)
•       Denver, Colo. (April 11)
•       Boston, Mass. (May 10)
•       Newark, N.J. (May 23)
•       Seattle, Wash. (June 7)
•       Kansas City, Mo. (June 21)
•       Sacramento, Calif. (July 24)
•       Cleveland, Ohio (August 7)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Both And for Back Up

How to back up your company data? Best to use a belt-and-suspenders strategy, experts say.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Flop, or Flip?

Your business is a flop, you say? You might reconsider giving up after you read my Q&A with the CEO of Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Parks.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Made in the USA

As I've written, American-made products boast quality levels that give them an edge around the world.

But are you buying them right here at home? I want to support domestic manufacturing, but sometimes it's hard to know where the products we buy are made.

A new website, KeepAmerica.com, is doing its part to promote American-made products by making it easy to find and purchase American-made products.

Site organizers say if every American spent $64 on U.S.-made products, the activity could potentially create 200,000 jobs. Give it a look.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Self-Funding

When Elena Bajic launched her online executive-matching company, IvyExec.com, in 2007, she self-funded it. Things worked out so well, she advises other entrepreneurs to avoid venture capital and rely on the traditional trio of "friends, family and angels" when raising capital.

 But how do you keep those investors happy? Here are Elena's tips:

Send quarterly reports.  It’s critical to keep investors updated.

Be transparent.  “Don’t hide anything,” Elena says.  “It’s better to be up front with both the bad and the good.”

Have skin in the game: “You must be willing to sacrifice and show your commitment to investors.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Crowd Fight

Is crowdfunding going to save the American economy, or unleash the power of crooks and con artists on the Internet?

My recent Smart Answers column discusses the controversy. Check it out; pretty interesting topic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Live Chat


Need some marketing tips?

Log on today for a live chat at 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. Eastern time with small business author John Jantsch, sponsored by The UPS Stores.

The chat session will include Jantsch's thoughts on marketing and a chance for small business owners to submit questions on the topic. Jantsch is the author of "Duct Tape Marketing" and "The Referral Engine."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Save Some Gas

One of the many benefits of working from home? Fluctuating fuel prices don't give me gas - or a headache!

Here are some tips for businesses that do have to cope with rising gas prices, from Connie Certusi, general manager of Sage Small Business Accounting:

When possible, plan out your deliveries and group your deliveries in the same area for the same days. Have your drivers use GPS to find the shortest routes. Here's an app that helps you calculate fuel savings while you're on the road.

Are your competitors passing along the higher cost of gas to customers? Should you charge a fuel surcharge to help manage the rise in costs?

Use accounting software to manage your cash flow and so that you can easily tell how much the rise in fuel is really costing your business.

Ask your accountant if there are tax benefits to getting new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. This might be a great way to get some lower tax provisions while upgrading your company vehicles.

Maintain your vehicles: Underinflated tires, misalignment, dirty filters and dirty oil can decrease your gas mileage.

Friday, March 9, 2012

You're Late!


About half of all entrepreneurs say late payments are the bane of their business.

Here's an infographic that summarizes what PaySimple found out about coping with late payers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Is the small-town pharmacy - and the pharmacist who knows your name - an unsustainable business model? Check out my column today.