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Small Business 411

Opening a small business is a daunting enterprise these days. There’s a lot to remember, but most small business tips fall into four broad categories: plan, specialize, advertise and save.

Small business owners may be tempted to start right away, but without a plan, they’re going nowhere. An owner needs to take the time to sit down and write out a business plan. A business plan is simply a road map that lists business goals, how the owner means to achieve them, and in what time frame. Owners who plan to borrow money should always have a business plan. Potential lenders will demand to see this document, because a detailed plan shows them that the business owner is serious about his venture. It also tells them exactly how he proposes to pay back the loan.

A small business owner won’t be able to undercut large competitors on price – at least, not for long. The best small business strategy is to offer unique, value-added products or services that customers will be willing to pay more to get. An owner should find a unique niche and do his best to provide products or services that others don’t have.

Market research is also essential for a small business owner. He needs to identify not just a unique product or service, but who he’ll be selling it to. A business owner should ask if there’s a demand for his product or service, and if so, how much? He needs to determine if he will have many competitors, or few, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Once a business owner has chosen a product and identified his market, he must get his business out there, and these days, that means going online. While it’s possible to be up and running within hours with free or nearly-free websites, it may be wiser for a business owner to spend a little money for a professional website, since the look of a business website influences customer perceptions about the company. It’s also important for the website to be glitch-free and easy for customers to use. A business website should offer customers many payment options, and every page should have a link to the checkout.

A business website needs to rank high in online searches to be found by online customers. Ranking high requires an understanding of search engine optimization, or SEO. If, for example, the owner of a small spa wants his business to rank well in online searches, he might sprinkle phrases like “spa services” or “spa facial” many times throughout his website. When potential customers search for those terms, websites with heavy concentrations of those terms get called up.

An owner should also consider establishing a Facebook and Twitter account for his business. Social media are increasingly important marketing tools and can provide a fledgling business many new customers.

It’s important for a business owner to resist the temptation to max out that new business card. It usually isn’t necessary for a new business to have brand-new furniture or office equipment. Owners should buy used equipment whenever possible to save money, and purchase non-perishable supplies in bulk. An owner should work out of his home for as long as possible to save on rent. Banks, libraries, conference centers and many apartment complexes and resorts offer rooms that can be reserved for business meetings–sometimes for free.

April 9, 2012   No Comments

Help Small Business Winners

Our small business contest was a huge success! We want to thank everyone that entered a local business in our February 2012 Contest. We received hundreds of nominations.

Here are the winners:
Small Business Name City State
KidZone Child Care Pittsfield Mass 1st Place – $1,000
Behind The Scenes Inc Greensboro NC 2nd Place – $500
CRC Construction Lake Geneva Wisconsin 3rd Place $100
Izzy’s Restaurant New Bedford MA 3rd Place $100

We are happy to support small businesses that keep moving forward during these tough economic times. Thanks again for all the entries.

March 21, 2012   No Comments

Debt settlement – Wipe Away Your Debt Problems

Debt settlement is a suitable debt relief option that helps you reduce your outstanding debts to some extent when you find it difficult to repay the entire debt amount in full. This situation happens mainly when your financial condition is not strong and you cannot manage your outstanding debts on your own. You may settle your debts either on your own or seek professional help so that you can free yourself from its clutches at the earliest time possible.

5 Advantages of a debt settlement program

Have a look at the 5 advantages of a debt settlement program.

1. Outstanding balance gets reduced – The main advantage of enrolling with a debt settlement program is that your outstanding balance gets reduced by 40-60% of what you actually owe. This can be done when your debt expert negotiates with your creditors and makes them understand about your financial condition due to which you cannot afford to make the debt payments in full.

2. One time payment – This is another advantage of a debt settlement program. You pay the settlement amount to the company and when the entire amount gets accumulated, the company distributes it amongst your creditors. Thus, you do not have to face the trouble of paying your creditors individually.

3. Professional experts guide you – If you are a debtor who finds debt unmanageable, you decide to enroll with a debt settlement program. In this program, the debt expert assesses your financial condition thoroughly and then fixes upon a payment that you have to pay to the company. With the proper guidance of the professional experts, you find it much easier to repay your outstanding dues within a specific time period.

4. May get rid of harassing calls – As you enroll with a debt settlement program, you make your debt payments through them. The company then informs your creditors about it so that they may stop giving you harassing calls for payments. Thus, you may get rid of the harassing calls of the creditors.

5. Quick way to get rid of debt problems – Debt settlement is an easy and quick way to get rid of your unnecessary debt problems. When you find it difficult to repay your entire debt amount, you opt for this debt relief option so that you can manage to make your debt payments and, at the same time, free yourself from the clutches of debt burden.

If you are a debtor who has fallen into excessive credit card debt problems, it is advisable that you do proper research and get in touch with an authentic debt settlement company. Debt settlement is the right option to wipe away your debt problems even when you face financial problem so that you may be able to live a debt free life.

March 19, 2012   No Comments

Trim Your Monthly Expenses

Often, when people discuss living frugally, the discussion turns to saving a little extra cash by skipping that daily gourmet coffee or dining out less often. But when circumstances warrant trimming more than a few discretionary purchases, it is time to find ways to save more significantly on the monthly expenses. A close examination of one’s budget often reveals that savings, in amounts both both large and small, can be found.

1. Getting A Grip: In order to find ways to trim the budget, first one must know where the money is going. A review of spending habits over the past twelve months is helpful, as it will take into account seasonal expenses, but even a review of three months’ spending is a good starting point. Keeping a journal of every penny spent will provide a detailed perspective of any wasteful discretionary spending.

2. Look At The Big Picture: Once the household budget records are collected, start the review with the largest expenses, as they offer the largest potential savings. For most people, that means housing. By reducing housing costs, households can often trim hundreds of dollars per month from their expenses. If homeowners cannot or do not wish to downsize or move to a more affordable home, savings can still be realized by looking for a less expensive homeowner’s insurance policy, or by adopting energy saving practices to reduce utility costs. Another large expense that can often be reduced is vehicle expenses, by continuing to drive one’s current vehicle after paying it off, or choosing to purchase a pre-owned or more fuel efficient vehicle when replacing one’s current car.

3. No Savings Too Small: For recurring monthly bills, even small amounts of savings can quickly add up. For instance, by choosing a pre-paid cellular service rather than a monthly service plan, a cell phone user may save fifty or even one hundred dollars per month. While that in and of itself is a sizable savings, consider also that, over the course of a year, this snowballs into a $600 to $1200 savings! Similarly, reducing cable television subscriptions, eliminating landline phone service, and cutting subscriptions to magazines or online entertainment, can yield several hundred dollars of savings per year. Even transferring a credit card balance to an account with a more favorable interest rate can save a borrower significant interest charges.

4. Find Money At The Grocery: Many household purchases, such as food and household necessities, are essential expenses. However, how much a family spends on groceries can be significantly reduced by smart shopping at the grocery store. Clipping coupons, and then using them when the product is on sale, can add up to substantial savings on grocery bills. The recent return to popularity of coupon shopping, and the ease of printing coupons from online couponing websites, can give a household significant relief from rising grocery bills.

5. Keep Trimming The Fat: After considering the household budget and making a first round of expense cuts, commit to making a periodic review. By undertaking quarterly reviews of the household budget, additional savings opportunities may surface.

March 16, 2012   No Comments

Gardening to Save Money

When money gets tight, many people cut expenses as a quick and easy way to get back on track. Cutting back on restaurant meals is not only good for your wallet, it’s also good for your health. But what if you were to take it one step further and grow your own food? Not only could you save money on groceries, but you would also have total control over what you eat. You wouldn’t have to worry about dangerous pesticides or rising produce prices. Best of all, you could cut back on your trips to the grocery store, which would save both money and time.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge yard to grow a garden. People living in apartments grow rooftop gardens or container gardens in their own kitchens. To get seedlings started, all you need is an old egg carton. Once they’ve sprouted, you can transport them into larger containers or into the ground. If you don’t have a lot of room to grow, try smaller plants like herbs, tomatoes, or strawberries. These plants are easily grown indoors and can be grown in hanging planters so they don’t take up any room. If you have enough room for an outdoor garden, the sky is the limit! You can grow large vegetables like pumpkins, watermelons, corn, cabbage, and many more.

To get your garden started, you first need to decide where it’s going to be and what you’re going to grow. If you’re growing plants indoors, you need to look for small plants that don’t need a lot of sunlight. Before you decide to grow anything outside, make sure it can withstand the temperature ranges in your area.

If you want an outdoor garden but don’t want to dig in the dirt, you can give new life to old containers that you have laying around by turning them into planters. Almost anything can be used from old boats, bathtubs, water containers, and even buckets. These items can all be used to grow plants, and as an added bonus, they’ll keep out many insects and rodents that would dine on your vegetables if they were planted in the ground.

To make your garden even more “green,” you can create a compost pile and add kitchen scraps, such as old fruits and vegetables and egg shells, as well as a variety of other items such as grass clippings, hair, and cardboard. When mixed with water, these items will eventually decompose and turn into a nutrient rich mixture that helps plants grow.

While many people grow gardens to save money or to eat more healthy foods, it’s also a great way to stay active and it’s something you can proudly say that you did yourself. Imagine having guests over for dinner and being able to tell them that you grew all of the vegetables or herbs in their meal. The wonderful thing about gardening is that anybody, young or old, can do it and it’s beneficial not only to you, but also to the environment.

March 9, 2012   No Comments

What advantages does a debt collection agency have?

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Running a company needs a lot of different types of considerations. One of the major challenging tasks is to understand what you should do if a customer disputes the debt in his account or just refuses to pay the debt. As long as the customer agrees to pay some part of his debt through debt settlement, the situation is still under your control. However, when your company is facing overdue accounts, returned checks from customers or even cash that is due to you from other individuals or companies, the process of keeping a track of these and retrieving them through various transactions can become cumbersome for you. This is especially true when you have a number of other things in mind that is related to business development. However, don’t be disheartened. There are debt collection companies which can take the responsibility of collecting the outstanding debts that others owe to you. The advantages of using a debt collection agency are written below.

1. Professional help - When you seek the help of a debt collection agency they would know the process that are to be used and all the legal details behind it. A debt collection company is controlled by Fair Trade Commission. This commission has initiated the use of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which ensures that a collection agency by no means violates the privacy of a consumer and is yet able to exercise enough control to withdraw debts from them.

2. Experience and will to perform - Another advantage that you get with a debt collector is that they are experienced in their field and are determined to collect delinquent accounts. Usually a debt collection company is commission based and what they will earn is through the quantity of funds they will acquire through the business. An individual debt collector is usually paid a low bottom income and is granted a commission on the actual bad debts that they specifically obtain. Thus they have an incentive to perform well.

3. Transferring your tension regarding debt collection - When you give the responsibility of collecting the delinquent account to a debt collection agency, you are basically transferring all your tension and headache to them. These people will manage the task of coordinating with multiple people, writing and delivering emails, making phone calls and tracking how much progress the claim is making. The collection agency will also make the ultimate work of reporting the status of the debt to a credit bureau once it is required. All these work required continuous attention and can get tedious. Thus making a collection agency do the work will help you save valuable time and effort.

Thus you can see how deciding to take the help of a collection agency to collect the debts that are delinquent can spell several benefits for you and help you in shifting the issues that can affect the finances of your business considerably into the hands of professionals.

March 9, 2012   No Comments

10 Wholesale Items To Build Easter Baskets

The Easter basket is an important tradition for many children. If you have lots of baskets to create, such as for all your nieces and nephews or for a class full of kids, you can save a considerable amount of money by buying the treats for the baskets wholesale. You can even buy the baskets wholesale.

1. Easter Stuffed Animals are an adorable addition to any basket and incredibly inexpensive when you purchase them in bulk. Choose from a chick, bunny or lamb. If you want, mix and match the stuffed animals or put one of each in each basket. You can also put realistic looking stuffed bunny in the baskets.

2. No Easter basket is complete without several Plastic Easter Eggs filled with sweet treats or other surprises. Get at least five eggs per basket. What you put in each egg is completely up to you. If you prefer, get the mini plastic eggs for a cute little basket. Give the basket a sports theme by filling it with sports themed eggs.

3. Bunny ears headbands add a touch of silliness to an Easter basket. The adorable white and pink ears rest on top of a comfortable, snap-on headband. They are a perfect addition to a set of baskets given to a class of kids.

4. Jelly Beans and other candies are a must for any basket. Use the jelly beans to fill the plastic Easter eggs or leave them in the package and give each child an entire bagful in their baskets.

5. Easter grass simply needs to go in the bottom of the basket. You may regret it and the parents of the children may not appreciate it, but the colorful strands of plastic are an essential tradition (a tradition that makes a big mess). You’ll get an assortment of cheerful pastel colors, so feel free to mix and match in the baskets.

6. Inexpensive and colorful Easter slide puzzles add a bit of fun. Kids will spend minutes or hours trying to solve each puzzle.

7. Add some more fun to each basket by tucking in an Easter paddle ball game. Buying multiple paddle ball games in bulk means you’ll pay less than $1 per each, even though the kids will get hours of fun out of them. The games come in an assortment of Easter themed prints. If you prefer, you can get inspirational paddle ball games for the baskets.

8. Get creative with the Easter bunny Hatchem Eggs Growing Pet. After opening the egg, a child places it in water and watches it grow. It’s a fun and slightly different Easter treat.

9. Add sparkle to the baskets with 2-tone Putty Eggs. The putty inside the plastic egg is both slimy and sparkling.

10. Don’t forget to finish the basket by wrapping it in cellophane. The kit contains all you need to finish off the baskets in style.

March 8, 2012   2 Comments

Start Something New Every Morning

Here’s an idea to put to work with your small business, one you can apply to your work no matter what you do whether you’re a real estate developer, a baker, an artist, a copy writer or an inventor: Every morning, you probably hop on your computer and check your emails. Tomorrow when you wake up, don’t do that. Instead, use those early minutes of the day to create something new.

Put together a new banner ad, write a new article, make a new contact and start a new business relationship, but take the first hour of the day and use it to focus on what new things you’re going to experience in your immediate future. Don’t waste that hour reading up on how everyone responded to what you did yesterday, use it to make people respond to something you’re going to do today.

The approach that people have to communication and business on the internet is quite often totally backwards. They’re more focused in studying past successes than pursuing new ones. Don’t fall into that trap. It’s true that you can learn from your mistakes, but dwelling on them suggests a timidity about making new ones, and making new mistakes is how you learn from them, not by focusing on ones you made yesterday or a week ago.

Say you put in a proposal at your favorite freelancing website yesterday. You’re probably eager to see if any of those proposals got a response. Why not put in five more proposals before checking? The sting of disappointment when your proposals are turned down hurts a little less because you’re not focusing on your past mistakes, you’re focusing on future opportunities.

Many bloggers do their best work in the morning for this very reason. At 7 AM, there’s no telling how the day is going to turn out and anything is possible. It’s exciting to start a new day full of possibility, and the easiest way to squander that excitement is to immediately start worrying about whether the client replied to that email, whether that banner ad you designed yesterday is drawing in hits, whether you have any positive comments on the new video you posted and on and on.

Use lunchtime to focus on the past if you like, but use the morning to create something new, to do something exciting. As fun as it might be to look and see if you’re getting any extra hits from that new blog directory you just submitted to or whether your new ad campaign is working, the bottom line is that it’s not getting you anywhere to obsess over those factoids early in the morning. Start something new every time you get out of bed and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in a day.

March 6, 2012   No Comments

Top 5 Most Clever Wholesale Business Ideas

Some people visit blogs about saving money so that they can, well, save money. They’re looking for great deals on groceries, clothes, you name it. Others are looking for overstocked, wholesale and bargain items because, if you have a nose for retail, it’s a great way to run a small business without needing tens of thousands of dollars to buy enormous bulk loads of wholesale products. When trying to build a retail business on chump change, you need to be creative and you need to be clever. Here are 5 of the most interesting ideas people have been using to make a buck in a bad economy:

1. Cigarette Lighters

Even if you don’t smoke, it’s handy to have a couple of cigarette lighters around. The trick to buying cigarette lighters is to keep an eye out for cheap lots and then sell them off in boxes to convenience stores, gas stations and so on, or to sell them one at a time at flea markets, conventions and so forth. Think about it: How many times have you seen a smoker lamenting that his lighter is out of fuel? Well, a bargain priced cigarette lighter retailer can be a real godsend in this instance.

2. Discontinued Beauty and Hygiene Products

Have you ever had a favorite scent of shampoo or a favorite flavor of toothpaste that was discontinued because it just wasn’t popular enough? A trip to the dollar store can be very lucrative if you keep an eye out for items that are on clearance. These retailers take a risk on their purchases because there’s no telling when something will be in demand and for how long, but a batch of 50 cent shampoos can easily yield a few dollars a bottle after a waiting period.

3. The Nostalgia Trade

If you ever want to really take a long shot risk, buy up a few wholesale batches of popular children’s merchandise. Cars, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, you name it. Sell what you can for now and whatever you can’t, hold onto it. It takes about 15 years for a child to become a nostalgic adult, and when that happens, you never know what collectors items you might have on your hands. Just ask the folks selling mint-in-box toys and Nintendo games for hundreds of dollars each. If you’re wondering what the kids are into these days, a quick stop by nickelodeon.com should sate that curiosity.

4. Printer Cartridge Refitting

The technically gifted often find it quite easy to take one printer ink cartridge and refit it to match another printer. This is frowned upon by the printer countries, but not exactly illegal. If you’re already guessing where this one is going, then you clearly have an entrepreneurial mindset: These guys find the cheapest printer inks around, then they get hold of some empty cartridges for the pricier brands and 1, 2, 3, they have premium brand ink cartridges at a bottom dollar price.

5. Digital Media

The world is quickly going off digital media like tapes and CDs and right into cloud storage and USB drives. However, if you know which formats they still use in editing bays and video labs, formats like DVD and betamax, it’s very possible to make a living on these storage mediums.

March 4, 2012   1 Comment

Saving Money on Healthy Foods

Many frugal grocery shoppers stress the use of coupons. This is a great way for many to save money; but it is necessary to understand what they are really buying.

A growing number of people are not satisfied with the waste all the packaging is contributing to the environment. More importantly, they are not happy feeding their families with the chemicals that abound in these cheaper products. It seems to come down to a choice of spending more money at the grocery store or feeding their families healthfully and helping the environment. Or does it?

While organic foods are often more expensive than their conventional counterparts; it is possible to save money and eat real foods as well. Here are a few ways to save at the grocery store and in the kitchen once those groceries are brought home:

1. Buy in Bulk.

Companies have used the buying wholesale principle for decades. This principle can be of value to the average family as well. If a family enjoys beef, they can purchase a side of grass-fed beef to be cut to their specifications and get a much lower price per pound than they would pay in the store. Warehouse clubs are good places to look for deals on bulk produce, frozen foods and meats. However, the unit price should always be considered, because purchasing more does not guarantee a better price.

2. Go to the Source.

When healthier food is considered, the best cost-saving measure is to buy directly. If a person wants organic produce, he can purchase it from the one that grows it. This eliminates the middle man, so much more can be obtained at a lower cost.

3. Use the Freezer.

Sometimes even grocery stores run extraordinary deals on healthier foods. This is the time to stock up and fill the freezer. If free-range chickens go on sale, buy several and put them in the freezer. Many things can be frozen including fruits, vegetables and milk.

4. Make Your Own.

Many basic food items can be made at home. For example, saving bones of beef cuts and chickens can yield delicious homemade broth for very minimal time investment and can be frozen for later use, completely eliminating the need for canned broth. Salad dressings and many condiments can be made quickly with simple ingredients most people already have on hand.

5. Buy Quality But Use Less.

Of course, there will always be those few items that taste better organic or with a name brand on the label. If a family eats pancakes often and goes through a few bottles of imitation maple syrup a month, they can simply save pancakes for a once or twice a month treat and top them with real maple syrup. The taste does not compare, and the cost difference would be minimal.

While clipping coupons can be great for the budget, there are many other ways to save money without sacrificing health. How does your family save money on whole foods?

March 2, 2012   No Comments