Tag Archives: WBDC

Affordable Care Act and Your Small Business

You want the best for your employees (and their families), and you know that making sure their health needs are met has been proven to decrease turnover, increase morale and keep your employees well enough to do their jobs worry-free.  With the changes in healthcare, you may question what this will mean to them and your business.  Even though the answers may be different for each business; here are a few facts to help you make important decisions regarding your employees’ wellness, regardless of your business.

–          Notifications – Employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must make sure all newly hired employees (as of October 1, 2013) are provided with notification about the new Health Insurance Marketplace.  Employers must let employees know they may be eligible for a premium tax credit if they purchase coverage through the Marketplace, and that they may lose the employer contribution (if applicable) to any health benefits plan offered by the employer.

–          SHOP: Access to Health Care Marketplace – Employers with up to 50 full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees will have access to the new health care insurance marketplaces through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).  Employers with 25 or fewer full-time or FTE employees may also participate in SHOP and may qualify for a small business health care tax credit which is worth up to 50% of your premium costs.

–          Medical Loss Ratio & Rebates – Employers could receive a premium rebate if their insurers do not meet their Medical Loss Ratio.  Employers who receive these rebates and determine that the rebate constitutes a plan asset may determine a reasonable and fair allocation of the rebate.

–          Employer Shared Responsibility – Though employers are not required to provide coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act, employers with at least 50 full-time or FTE employees that do not offer health coverage will be subject to a shared responsibility payment under the health care law.  View the chart below.  Businesses with fewer than 50 full-time or FTE employees are generally not affected by these provisions.   Click here for more information.

–          New Wellness Incentives – The Affordable Care Act creates new incentives to promote employer wellness programs and encourages opportunities to support healthier workplaces.  A wellness program can be provided to promote health and fitness at the workplace or insurance plans can offer them directly to their enrollees.

The WBDC is holding a workshop to address the questions of small business owners on March 12, 2014.  To learn more and to register today, please click here.  For more information about the Affordable Care Act, please visit www.healthcare.gov.

employer-penalty-flowchart-v3-071513

Kristin Travis Headshot

By: Kristin Travis, Illinois PTAC Associate

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Filed under ACA, Business, Uncategorized

Business Mentoring is a Business Builder

mentoringA mentoring relationship can take form in many different stages of your career.  Recently it has become one of the most important relationships a young entrepreneur can establish.  The unconditional knowledge and advice a trusted and established entrepreneur can offer is invaluable.  Many successful business owners will credit a large portion of their success to a few key individuals who helped mold them into the business owners they are today.

It has been proven that new business owners see concrete results in their companies when they enter into a mentoring relationship.  New entrepreneurs who received mentoring increased their revenue by an average of $47,300 or 106% ( Htet).  It has also been shown that businesses who received mentoring created 4.75 jobs on average (2.5 jobs more than those that did not receive mentoring) (Htet).

Stephanie Hickman, owner of Trice Construction Company, found her mentor through the Clinton Foundation and strongly believes that finding the right mentor is extremely important..  She explains, “the mentoring relationship is one of the most personal relationships of your life, so there must be a level of chemistry and like-minded alignment that comes naturally between both individuals.”  Hickman cites trust as a necessary component for the relationship to be truly beneficial and valuable.

Now the question becomes how do you have a successful mentoring relationship?  Here are four tips to make your mentoring experience most successful!

  1. Set up specific goals and expectations with your mentor from the start of the relationship.
  2. Create a realistic implantation plan with specific steps towards achieving these goals.
  3. Establish regular meetings (even phone meetings) in order to assure the relationship is a priority for both parties involved. 
  4. Track and evaluate the progress throughout the duration of the relationship.

The Women’s Business Development Center offers a mentoring program through an online portal supplemented by programming including webinars and in person meet-ups to strengthen  the relationships between mentors and mentees.

Mentoring

Works Cited

Htet Lin Thu, Jason. 2013 Business Outcomes Report. Rep. Micro Mentor, n.d. Web.

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Filed under Business Mentoring, Uncategorized, Women Business Owner

Writing Winning Proposals – The Bid/No Bid Decision

By: Freida Curry, Director of the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) In last month’s Insider, I provided 6 steps for writing winning proposals.  The first step listed was ‘Make a Bid/No Bid’ decision.  In this issue, we are going to spend more time on this important step, and have invited Eileen Kent, President of Custom Keynotes, as our guest blogger.  Eileen, who has trained thousands of business owners nationwide in federal sales, proposal writing and GSA schedule contracting, is known in the industry as the “Federal Sales Sherpa” because she guides companies up the long and treacherous mountain path of federal contracting. 

The following are Eileen’s comments and suggestions about establishing a bid/no bid decision process: 

Eileen Kent

In my experience, one of the more rocky roads up the path to federal sales success is writing a blind proposal as a response to a bid posted on the public website FedBizOpps.gov. It’s as dangerous as walking up a mountain path with a blindfold on. You only have only a 5% chance of making it to the top three finalists.

If that is the case, then why do owners gamble their resources when there is such a low probability of making it to the top? Because owners believe their companies are perfect for the project – when, in fact, they often had no business bidding on it in the first place!

It is crucial that you take the time to evaluate and explore whether you should bid or not bid on an ‘opportunity,’ and I strongly advise owners and business development professionals to build a bid/no bid decision process that helps you decide which proposals to invest your time and talent.

Build a Bid/No Bid Decision Process

In my opinion and experience, you don’t stand a chance if you’ve never pre-sold to the customer inside the government. The goal is to “only write winners” (proposals) and that means you’ve already pre-sold the solution and you’re simply defending the win within theproposal.

A great way to judge your potential success is to ask yourself these questions below. If you don’t know any of the answers, you’re writing a blind bid and that means you only have a 5% chance or less of winning.

  1. Who is the incumbent?
  2. What does the customer think of the incumbent?
  3. Who are the other competitors calling on the client?
  4. Can the incumbent bid on this opportunity? What if they are a large business and the proposal states it is seeking small businesses? Could they bid with a small business teaming partner? If so, who is that small business? What does the customer think of them?
  5. Do I have the bonding capacity and the finances to be able to back such a project?
  6. Do I have the ability to provide the government agency the transparency it requires in terms of my costs, my team’s pay and my finance system? Would I withstand a Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit?
  7. Have I performed work at this agency before? How did I perform?
  8. What are the past performance requirements? Did I do something in similar size and scope – at that agency?
  9. What are the products the government agency is requesting? Do I have the name brand products it is requesting or the “equivalent?”
  10. Does the customer know me? Do I know the customer? Have we worked together? Did they ask me to watch out for this bid?
  11. Have I built teaming partners and lined them up prior to the bid hitting the streets?
  12. What is the contract vehicle? Do I have it? If it is an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, do I have the sales team to uncover and win each task?
  13. What are the billing processes and the invoicing procedures at this agency?
  14. If the government agency is asking for key staff, do I have THE people on my staff it  told me it wanted or am I just filling a position to fit their description?
  15. Is this opportunity in my specialty? Do they know me for this specialty?
  16. Do I have the security clearances for this project, or am I scrambling to get them now?
  17. Do I know the story behind the opportunity? Why is this on FedBizOpps? Why didn’t they use a current prime, a GSA schedule or another contracting vehicle to avoid all the “noise” of a public procurement?
  18. When did I hear about this bid?
  19. When is the bid due?
  20. Was I invited to bid, or did I just pull this off the public bidding website?
  21. Who do I know at the agency – the end user, the contracting officer, or the stakeholder, or all three or none?

My motto is “Write Less Proposals – WIN More.” If you put as much time and investment in knowing the answers to the above questions by developing strong relationships, great past performance and excellent teaming partnerships before the bid hits the streets – as you do writing the proposal – you should be in a good position to be among the top three finalists. And even if you lose, you’re in a great position to be the winner the next time around.

If you want to hear more from Eileen Kent, visit her website at http://www.customkeynotes.com.

For more information on proposal writing, certification, finding contract opportunities, and developing a government contracting strategy we invite you to schedule a free appointment today with a WBDC Illinois PTAC counselor by calling 312-853-3477 x 100.

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5 Tips for Building Business Relationships that Lead to Successful Corporate Contracting

Cynthia Johnson, WBDC Director of Established Business Services

Cynthia Johnson, WBDC Director of Established Business Services

Contracting with major corporations can bring big bucks to any business, but what are the best ways to accomplish your goal of building the key relationships that mean profit for your business? Cynthia Johnson, Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Director of Established Business Services, shares five tips for successful corporate contracting:

1. Do research – doing business with a corporation isn’t about what they can do for you, but rather what you can do for them. The best way to find out their needs is to really understand a corporation’s mission, history, goals etc. Small business owners, particularly women and minorities, should create a vendor profile on the corporation’s supplier diversity page. The vendor profile includes contact information and other pertinent information about your business and can be accessed by supplier diversity representatives and corporate buyers. On the supplier diversity page, not only can you find information regarding corporation objectives, but you can be notified of outreach events and other relationship building opportunities.

Connection Points

2. Network with fellow small business owners – networking is vital, so make it count. We have an entire program called Connection Points built around the concept of focused networking. Networking with those who are in related or complimentary industries can offer all involved parties the opportunity to share ideas, trends, talents for the purposes of building relationships and strengthening businesses.

3. Value Proposition – it is important to write and maintain a strong value proposition, a clear concise “living” document that is used to give potential corporate clients a glimpse at the value your business can offer them. Your value proposition can be used as a means to introduce yourself or to as a relationship building tool in a one-on-one presentation meeting with the potential corporate client such as WBDC’s Contract Connections Program. In a value proposition you should:

Lead with your business strengths – make sure you highlight your capacity to manage awarded contracts, your financial strength & stability, past successes, bonding capacity (if applicable) and that you exemplify outstanding client services & best practices. Simply stating “I’m certified” won’t do; you must also display that you will offer the same high performance that corporations expect of all businesses they work with, and as a value-add you are also a certified WBE, MBE, DBE or VBE*.

4. Keep current – Renew your certifications and don’t let them lapse. Make sure you have paid close attention to any deadlines and paperwork you may have to complete to make this possible. Keeping current also means continuing to grow within your industry. Joining trade associations, subscribing to industry publications, attending industry events and sharing information with your professional peers will help you to stay relevant and build your expertise. These items are also impressive to add to your supplier diversity vendor profile and value proposition.

5. Be Persistent, But Patient – building a relationship in the business world is like building any other relationship. You want to let your potential corporate clients know you exist and highlight your value to them, but remember building a relationship takes time. Follow up is encouraged, but don’t be overbearing, when making a call or sending an email give time for the supplier diversity representative to process the information. Strong business relationships can take months or even years to cultivate, but in time, using these steps you can set the groundwork to be a success in corporate contracting.

For more information or set up an appointment to develop your corporate contracting plan, please call 312.853.3477 or contact Cynthia Johnson at cjohnson@wbdc.org. For government contracting tips, click here.
*WBE: Women’s Business Enterprise. MBE: Minority Business Enterprise. VBE: Veteran Business Enterprise. DBE: Disadvantaged Business Enterprise

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Filed under Business, Established Business, Supplier Diversity, WBE, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Celebrating Women Business Successes in Minnesota

The Women’s Business Development Center-Minnesota (WBDC-MN) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2013.  To commemorate this milestone, as well as Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) and WBDC-MN corporate partners, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair coming to Minneapolis this June, the WBDC-MN held its 7th Annual Celebration of Success.

Attendees were honored to hear from MN Senators Franken and Klobucher as they addressed the crowd via video.  Both spoke of the great things the WBDC-MN is doing for women business owners and the work that is still ahead. See the videos below:

 

The Celebration of Success was held earlier this year and honored truly deserving individuals and companies that support the growth of women’s business ownership.  Awardees included:

WBDC MN Pic of Award Winners

The WBDC-MN honored the achievements and success of local women entrepreneurs and supporters of women’s economic development, including (from left) Lisa Holter, shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Advocacy Award; Lynne Alexander, chairman and CEO, The Bureau of Engraving, Inc., WBE of the Year Award; Kelly Wold Smith, owner/president, Futura Marketing Inc., Giving Back Award; and Molly Larsen, supplier diversity senior manager, Best Buy, who accepted the Corporate Partner of the Year Award on behalf of the corporation.

  • WBE of the Year Award to Lynne Alexander, chairman and CEO, The Bureau of Engraving, Inc for her company’s success in leveraging its WBE status to secure business, and for outstanding contributions to the community and WBDC-MN.
  • Corporate Partner of the Year Award to Best Buy, for its outstanding commitment to supplier diversity and the utilization of women-owned businesses in its supply chain. Best Buy’s supplier diversity senior manager Molly Larsen, who accepted the award on behalf of the corporation, spoke of the evening and the award:

“Our program is relatively new so it is great for our team to be recognized for all the hard work we done over the past three years. The snowy weather didn’t keep folks away! The turnout, the food and the venue were fantastic.”

  • Giving Back Award to Kelly Wold Smith, owner/president, Futura Marketing Inc., for extraordinary contributions to the success of the WBDC-MN, its certified WBEs and the women’s business community.   Kelly says of the award:

“It is a milestone for me to have made it to a place where I can help others –I am so honored to be in a position where I can be honored for my contributions to a wonderful organization like the WBDC.”

  • Advocacy Award to Lisa Holter, shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., for strong commitment to women’s economic development and long-standing, generous support of the WBDC-MN.

The WBENC Regional Host Committee, featuring top WBE companies from throughout the WBDC’s nine state Midwestern region, was also introduced through the video below, created by Lili Hall, Host Committee member and president/CEO of KNOCK Inc.!  Learn more about the Host Committee here: http://www.wbenc.org/wbencconf/conf-host-committe.php.

Will we see you at the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Minneapolis June 25-27th? Best Buy’s Molly Larsen will be there and is looking forward to the conference, “I am always inspired by the dedication, talent, determination and creativity of the WBEs. They inspire me to continue to improve the program at Best Buy and find opportunities to purchase from them.”  Plus, Futura Marketing’s Kelly Wold Smith will “absolutely” be there, and suggests if you’re planning on attending to see “the lakes – I live in the western suburbs and personally I don’t think a summer trip to the Twin Cities is complete without a boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka!”

Click here to see more pictures from the celebratory evening.

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Filed under Special Events, WBDC- Minnesota, Women Business Owner, Women in Business, Women's History Month

The Tax (Wo)Man Cometh! WBDC Gets Advice from the IRS

Yolanda Ruiz

Yolanda Ruiz

With Tax Season quickly approaching, we at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) want to make sure you are the most prepared you can be when it comes to doing your small business taxes.  Who better to ask about taxes then the IRS?  For that we turn to Yolanda Ruiz, IRS expert and employee and frequent presenter at WBDC workshops on business taxes.

1.       What is the number one question you get from small business owners seeking assistance with their taxes?

“Unfortunately, many come to me when they are behind in their taxes asking about payment options. One of our partners noted ‘One of the major obstacles that business owners encounter with their businesses was not being aware of their responsibilities to the IRS. Most are repaying the IRS for lack of paying payroll taxes or estimated tax payments.’ It’s hard to catch up when you fall behind, knowledge is key.”

2.       What is a common misconception you see about taxes or the process of filing?

“Trying to reduce your tax bill is illegal. Actually, with tax planning you can legitimately reduce your taxes. Washington is constantly sending out incentives in way of additional write-offs and hiring credits (Section 179, Bonus Depreciation, HIRE). Utilizing these incentives will reduce your tax bill while expanding your business.”

3.        What resources are available to small business owners (especially those on a budget)?

“E-news for Small Businesses is an electronic newsletter that comes out every other Wednesday. It will provide you with information on current incentives (additional deductions/credits) for small business as well as free resources. To subscribe go to: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Subscribe-to-e-News-for-Small-Businesses

IRS also has VITA sites that offer free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. For a VITA site near you, go to – http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/

The IRS is proud to partner with Center for Economic Progress/ Tax Clinic. They can help you if you have a dispute or problem with the IRS to solve your issues quickly.  Also, they will be able to file current and previous tax returns. Call the Tax Clinic at (312) 630-0241 for an appointment, or go to http://www.economicprogress.org/clients/got-letter-irs for more information.

The IRS is proud to partner with The Law Project, a nonprofit that provides free services to qualified business start-ups: http://www.thelawproject.org

4.       What online resources would you recommend?

“The Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop online is composed of nine interactive lessons designed to help new small business owners learn their tax rights and responsibilities. It includes topics such as EIN, Business Structures, Recordkeeping, Classifying Worker and Business Taxes.

Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center on irs.gov – http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Small-Business-and-Self-Employed-Tax-Center-1

No more spending time navigating the IRS website, all that you need is on this page. “

“The purpose for tax education is not to make you a tax professional but to give you an awareness of your tax responsibilities and the many benefits that are available. By having an awareness of how your business should be run (for tax purposes) you can ensure that your accountant/tax preparer is compliant with filing and payments, you will avoid problems and you will allow your business to grow.”

The WBDC also wants to make sure you and your employees know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. If you file as a Schedule C, you as a self-employed individual may be able to receive the credit.  Click here to learn more.

The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. With the additional funds, the majority of recipients invest back into their local economy and can truly help grow small businesses.  To learn more about the EITC, please click here.

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Filed under Business, Business Start-up, IRS, Taxes, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Social Media for the Professional Woman

Networking is key to building a successful business.  Not only should you attend networking events within your local business region, but also pay attention to online networking.  One of the top business networking sites today is LinkedIn, and with refreshed profiles, updated business pages and highly interactive groups, it’s here to stay.  Here is how you can efficiently and effectively maneuver through LinkedIn.

Profile Picture1. Update Your Picture!  Yes, this point is part vanity, part practical, mostly practical.  Make sure your profile picture is recognizable as you today – not ten years ago. A great picture shouldn’t be a glamour shot of what you look like touched up, unless you walk around with a makeup team on a daily basis.  Make it inviting, warm and add a hint of marketing by matching your attire with your brand colors or strategically post a logo in the background.

Connecting Picture2. Connect! It may seem like common sense, but you have to connect with people on LinkedIn to make it work for you.  When you send out invitations, keep it to people you have actually met or that you share a connection with.  In your invitation, explain why you’re connecting, unless you contact them on a regular basis, and then it’s okay to send a standard invite.  Be sure to check out who’s inviting you to connect; take a look at their profile, connections and groups.  Remember, once they’re a connection they can see your full profile and interactions.

LinkedIn Picture3. Join (and ENGAGE in) Groups: Explore all LinkedIn has to offer by joining groups relevant to you.  Search for your alma mater or one of your offline networking groups to join.  Active groups provide great information and events that can help you boost your business.  If you’re a woman business owner in the Midwest, consider joining the WBDC’s LinkedIn Group, Inspired Women, to engage with other professional women looking for advice, input and inspiration.

Resume Image4. Use It, or Lose It!  Make sure to update your not only your picture, but also your profile.  It’s a living resume, so keep it current.  You never know who’s looking for the skills and experience you have to offer.  Keep things interesting by making your headline relevant and engaging, with trigger words.  Learn more about headlines, and other parts of your LinkedIn strategies, in this free webinar recording.

LinkedIn Picture25. It’s About Business!  If you have a business, you should have a business page.  LinkedIn has come a long way in cultivating the business pages to better serve companies.  They now have header images, status updates, video advertising, product promotions and more for followers to interact with.

Spend 10 minutes a day implementing some of these tips, whether it be commenting in a group or updating your profile, and see what comes of it!  You never know what you’re missing out on until you try new strategies.

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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Marketing, Social Media, Technology, WBDC, WBDC News

WBDC Retail Business Clients Share Their 2013 Business Strategies

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday may have been a bonanza for many WBDC retail clients, but even before the December holidays were over, most had their eye on the New Year. Read their business-building strategies – and be inspired!

JulieJulie Horowitz Jackson, Owner

Virtu, 2034 N. Damen Av.

www.virtuchicago.com

One-of-a-kind gifts such as handcrafted jewelry and stationery are Julie’s stock and trade. In 2013, she’ll alter her buying plan by reducing inventory and adding new artists. In-store events will be bumped from six to ten. She still plans to write guest articles for gift and chamber of commerce publications, but her real focus will be on expanding her own blog, “Virtues,” with a precise editorial calendar.

 

Deborah Kramer

Deborah Kraemer, Owner

Abbey Brown Soap Artisan, 1162 W. Grand Av.

www.abbeybrown.com

Deborah’s new year begins with a bang on January 4 when she plunges in to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. She’ll handle the intensive curriculum, which requires two full days of weekly classroom sessions and plenty of “homework,” by turning over more duties to her two managers. Deborah will expand the number of on-site soap-making classes and maintain her level of involvement teaching high school students small business skills in the After School Matters program. For Deborah, January also means taking a complete business inventory and manning a booth at the Chicago Gift Show at the Merchandise Mart. Oh, and she’s designing several new products. Did we mention this is all BEFORE she begins the Goldman Sachs program? Stay tuned!

Laurel Stradford

Laurel Stradford, Owner

What the Traveler Saw, 1508 E. 55th St.

www.WhatTheTravelerSaw.com

Coming off of a successful 2012, Laurel says she’s bringing “a new heart and hope” to the new year. Her popular store will be open more days and more hours. She will amp up her marketing and regularly post information on her new blog and Facebook page. Sadly, the “traveler” was only able to schedule one trip in 2012, but that will change in 2013. Jazz festivals in Europe and a return trip to Turkey, as well as many invitations from other travelers, beckon.

Oh, the excitement, hope and promise of creating those New Year’s business-related resolutions! What plans do you have to take your business to the next level? Share your strategies in the comment section below!

Contributed by guest blogger Chris Ruys of Chris Ruys Communications.

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Goldman Sachs, Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Saturday, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner

“Where do I find a grant to start my woman-owned business?”

All too often at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) we hear the question, “Where are the grants for women to start their businesses?” The answer: There are none.  No really, there are none.  If you find a grant for women starting a business, please post the information in the comments below, because in the last 27 years we have yet to see one.

Yes, there are loans for business start-ups, small business competitions with cash prizes and occasionally, you can find grants through Small Business Administration (SBA) non-profit partners, if you are already in business, but you aren’t going to find a grant without showing you have some “skin in the game.”  You need to prove that you are just as invested in your business as investors, grantors or lenders are going to be.  It’s time to get serious and shift your focus from looking for free money to building a solid foundation with a business plan, a thorough analysis of your financials (past personal and projected business) and target market research.

A question was recently posted on PartnerUp regarding the necessity of a traditional business plan.  Some thought they were irrelevant in this day and age of the ever changing business climate, while others saw them as completely necessary.  What do you think? Based on what we’ve seen with clients over the years, the ones that write down their idea into a solid plan and update that plan on a yearly basis have seen the greatest success and continue to sustain a fruitful business.  Plus, when it comes time to look for funding, it’s unlikely you’ll be taken seriously without putting your business in writing.

So what can you do if you’re a start-up looking for funding?  If you’re in Chicago, consider the WBDC Micro Finance Program, a direct lending program where the WBDC, as a core member of the Chicago Microlending Intitute (CMI), is making loans for Chicago business owners seeking additional support.  Plus, the WBDC provides a free webinar, Take the Mystery out of Finance, every month, and below is the most recent recording of the presentation, which covers crowdfunding and more. Watch it, take notes, and if you have questions ask us at wbdc@wbdc.org.

In two weeks, we’ll discuss more about furthering your education as a business owner when it comes to finance.  In the meantime, take time to become educated on financial resources available for you.  Here are just a few more, besides WBDC, to take a look at:

  1. Accion
  2. SBA
  3. FunderHut
  4. Family and friends

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Filed under Business Start-up, Established Business, Finance, SBA, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

8 Holiday Retail Business Tips from the Women’s Business Development Center

With holidays just around the corner, small business owners are prepping their businesses for what is hoped to be a prosperous season.  The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) has no shortage of retail clients and to help them, and you, we’ve put together a list of 8 tips to heat up cool weather sales!

1. Email marketing – if you don’t do it already, start now!  Great template based tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact are available at little to no cost.  Emailing is still the number one way to reach your clients online and create loyalty with your customers.  Have a plan for the holidays, schedule emails right up until Christmas, and even after that for any sales you might have!

2. Stay active – in the community that is.  Small Business Saturday is a nationwide event showcasing small business owners on November 24th.  It’s the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be sure to encourage customers to save their spending for shopping local on Saturday. Make sure you’re active and take advantage of all the free business marketing tools you can find here.

3. Deck the halls- or at least the showroom.  Make sure your shop has a seasonal feel as it tends to make consumers more in the spirit of giving (read spending).  Think twinkle lights and cheerful music!

4. Prepare the troops – refresh your employees on procedures.  Giving your staff a run through of policies and procedures prior to the holiday rush is a good idea so they can handle any situation that comes their way.  Things to think about:

– discounts being offered

– how to deal with theft

– what to do with returns

– gift card sales

These are just a few of the basics that are often forgotten during the rest of the year.  A well informed staff makes a successful season and happy customers!

5. Party – reasonably and retail-ly.  If you haven’t already, hold a holiday open house.  Get neighboring businesses to participate through giveaways or staying open late with you; it’s a win-win for all. Make it special and offer exclusive deals.  If you’ve already had your open house, make sure your employees feel special by way of a holiday party just for them.

6. Give back. Rally the team and volunteer at one of the local shelters, food drives or other organizations that need assistance during the winter months.  Not only are you making a difference, you’re also showing the community that you are a socially responsible business.

7. Keep it social. As a B2C (business to consumer) business, you should already have a business Facebook page up and running.  If you don’t, here’s a free webinar recording from the WBDC on how to do right.  If you are active, don’t forget to post pictures of new merchandise, have a social media exclusive sale and engage your clients as much as possible!  And be sure to double check your reviews on sites like Yelp.com – nothing like a poor review to turn away potential customers.

8. Don’t forget about the men!  Although women are the purchasing decision makers for most households in the United States, don’t forget about their counterparts: husbands, boyfriends and sons.  Get your message out that you can help them find that perfect gift and offer a worry free shopping experience! This is particularly successful when you have a high number of return clients.  Nothing is better than unwrapping the perfect gift and not finding a gift card.

Try at least one or two of these ideas if you’re not already. Did we leave anything out? What do you do to make your business most successful during the holidays?

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Marketing, Retail, Small Business Saturday, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Webinar, Women Business Owner, Women in Business