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Business Startups

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Business ideas are easy. Entrepreneurs can see a dozen opportunities a day if they keep their eyes open and their minds sharp. From parking a car to waiting in line at the coffee shop, anywhere there’s a difficulty or a problem there’s a solution waiting to be monetized.

 

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The challenge is turning that idea from concept to a service.

 

That takes planning. It takes time and it takes money, too. Coming up with an idea requires only a moment of inspiration. Building a business requires risk, effort and work.

So, when you’re full of good ideas, how can you tell which is the one that will bring you the most success? Which idea is worth making that investment?

 

Start with the traditional method: turn your business idea into a business plan.

 

In an age of pitch decks and Powerpoint presentations, that might sound old-fashioned. But creating a business plan, even if it’s only for yourself, forces you to take a hard, objective look at the product you want to create. It tells you what you’ll need to create it.

 

Of course, you’ll come away with an idea of the amount you’ll need to invest, and the sort of revenues it can bring in. But you’ll also come away with a deeper understanding of the product. The act of describing it will help you to understand what you can build and which features are unlikely to work in practice. And as you look at your market, you’ll come to see both its size and its make-up. Do the ideas include customers you want to spend time with? Are they people you want to help?

 

Once you’ve created a business plan, you might be able to begin work on the production. Someone hoping to open their own fashion boutique, for example, could start by creating a few pieces and seeing how they sell online or at fairs. Getting that feedback early would be better than investing in a complete store and hoping that people like it enough to tell their friends and return regularly.

 

Outlets like Etsy and Ebay offer easy ways to reach and test a market once the marketing is right. You can even create a Facebook page, start building followers, and use their comments to find out whether the interest you thought you’d generate is there.

 

There is a difference though between saying that a product is good and actually willing to part with cash for it. That’s why some businesses use crowdfunding sites not just to raise funds to pay for production but to market-test interest in their product. If people are willing to pay in advance to help a business create a product that they find interesting—whether that’s a new kind of drone or an origami folding kayak—that’s a great sign that that other people will pay to own it too.

 

The success of a crowdfunding campaign often has as much to do with the quality of the campaign as the product itself though, so again, you’ll have to put in effort to get a reliable result. But if you meet the threshold you’ll have both a proven idea and enough funds to get you at least past the first stage of production.

 

 

None of this will happen quickly. A business plan might take you a month or more to research properly and put together. Building a prototype and taking your first steps into the market could take you months more  and give you the kind of feedback you really didn’t want to hear. Even a crowdfunding campaign now relies on creating both a version of the product and shooting a professional-looking campaign video… then promoting both with press releases and on social media.

 

Which is why doing all of that brings you to the most important test of your business idea. If, after writing a business plan, building samples, and pitching to a market, you still love the idea and still believe you’ll enjoy creating it, you know you’ve picked a good idea.

 

If your business idea is fun to develop, your customers will have fun using it. That’s how you know you’ve found the right business idea.

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Join two of Bank of America’s Small Business Bankers as they team up with entrepreneur and co-founder of Harlem Capital, Brandon Bryant, to offer some unique perspectives on the financial side of entrepreneurship. This session will be livestreamed by Brandon (@wallstreetpaper) from the Better Money Habits® Retreat in Miami, FL, where other entrepreneurs and small business owners are gathering this weekend to talk all things financial wellness.

 

From learning what inspired Brandon to pursue entrepreneurship to tips on how to take this next step in life, you can follow along and tweet questions to @wallstreetpaper on Saturday, September 27th at 4 p.m. ET

 

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The journey can look so long. When you’re sitting in your cubicle, counting down the hours until you can commute home, the distance from employee to entrepreneur can appear impossible to cross.

 

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It isn’t… and thousands of people make that journey successfully every year. According to the U.S.Chamber of Commerce, about 400,000 new businesses are started each year—and 70 percent of those businesses are still running two years later. Making the move from employee to entrepreneur requires just three steps.

 

They’re big steps, but there’s just three of them.

 

1.    Measure and Find the Money You Need

 

The first step is the most frightening. Starting a business always costs money. Whether you’re opening an online store or planning to set up a law firm, you’re going to have upfront costs. You’ll have office expenses and marketing expenses. You’ll need to buy supplies and equipment. You might have to pay for licenses and salaries. Some of those costs will be predictable. Others you’ll only be able to estimate.

 

The same is true of revenues. It might be a year or more before you see a return on your investments, and even longer before you break even. You’ll need to know how much money you’ll need to take you to that break-even point—and where you’re going to get it from. You’ll need to measure your savings, talk to the bank, and understand how much you’ll have to pay for any loans that you take.

 

Tackling the finances will be difficult, but it’s the first step towards taking control of your business life.

 

2.    Build a Routine

 

Money is one vital resource that every entrepreneur needs. The other is time. The two are related, of course. The more time you’re able to devote to your business, the more money you’ll spend but the sooner you’ll be able to turn the red ink black.

 

Ideally, you’ll be able to walk into your boss’s office, thrown down your resignation letter and head off to your own business to work full-time. In practice though, what usually happens is that small businesses start in spare hours. They’re built in the evenings and early mornings, and they take off at weekends when barbeques and sports games are sacrificed for semi-professional photography shoots and product launches.

 

There’s a benefit to that gradual approach. It means that by the time you’re ready to go full-time, you’ll already know what you’re doing. You’ll know which products your customers like most and which marketing channels work best. Moving to full-time business-building won’t mean hoping that your business idea succeeds; it will mean scaling an idea that’s already showing signs of promise.

 

Before you become a full-time entrepreneur, build a schedule around your day job. Make testing different parts of your business part of your routine so that you get the riskiest and toughest parts of being an entrepreneur out of the way before you take the jump.

 

 

3.    Enjoy the Process

 

There are always difficult moments when building a business. There will always be challenges and failures and frustrations. There will also be successes, achievements, and a great sense of pride. No one expects you to enjoy the times when launches fizzle or clients walk away but you should be able to enjoy the journey overall.

 

Employees have a steady income. They know exactly how much money they’re going to make each month. They know what they have to do to get their next raise, and they know the maximum they can expect to earn. If all you’re interested in is your finances, then you’ll find it easier to match your lifestyle to your income than to build a business to raise your earnings.

 

You don’t become an entrepreneur only to get rich. You build a business because you enjoy the process of building it. You know that you’ll love working for yourself, and you’ll have real fun putting it all together.

 

The last step is the most important: create a business plan that you’ll really enjoy implementing.

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Do you dream of being your own boss but don’t think you have enough startup capital? Starting a business is more affordable than ever.

 

Don’t believe me? Read on to discover 21 businesses you can start for $25,000 or less—and find out how you can win $25,000 to launch your dream business. (see note below)

 

First, the secrets to low-cost business success

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  • Start as a one-person business and hire freelancers/independent contractors as you grow.
  • Run your business from home and meet with clients at their office or a neutral location.
  • Instead of buying new equipment, buy used or lease what you need
  • Focus on basics: a computer, smartphone and a website, plus any licenses, permits or certifications you need.
  • Consider incorporating to protect your personal assets from liability.

 

Best business startup ideas under $25,000

 

  1. Tutoring service: Tutor students in their homes or offer services at schools.  (National Tutoring Association)
  2. Photography business: Specialize in weddings, sports teams, class photos or pets; or market your services to businesses. (American Photographic Artists)
  3. Graphic design company: Create logos, marketing materials and more for business clients. (Graphic Artists Guild)
  4. Website design company: Help other small business owners create an online presence. Offer additional services, like SEO and marketing assistance, to boost your sales. (Association of Web Design Professionals)
  5. Event/Party/Wedding planner: Plan parties or weddings for individuals, or meetings and conventions for businesses. (PCMA, Meeting Professionals International)
  6. Personal trainer: Get basic workout equipment and certification from a professional organization and start helping clients shape up. (ACE, National Strength and Conditioning Association)
  7. Handyman services: Market your services to homeowners, property managers and landlords. (Association of Certified Handyman Professionals)
  8. In-home childcare service: Get licensed and insured, then start marketing your childcare services through word-of-mouth. (National Association for Family Child Care)
  9. Virtual assistant business: Help other small business owners with administrative tasks. (International Virtual Assistants Association)
  10. Consulting business: From IT and management to marketing and sales, just about any professional expertise can become a consulting business. (Institute of Management Consultants)
  11. Pool cleaning business: A used truck and equipment will get you started; network with other home services businesses to find customers. (Association of Pool & Spa Professionals)
  12. House painting service: Invest in equipment and promote your business via word-of-mouth and networking. (Painting and Decorating Contractors of America)
  13. Personal chef/Caterer: Cook up success preparing meals for private clients as a personal chef or cater bigger events for individuals and organizations. (National Association for Catering & Events, United States Personal Chef Association)
  14. Maid service: Busy Americans need someone to keep their homes clean. Also target the senior living-at-home market. (ISSA The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association)
  15. Dog walking/Pet sitting service: Profit from Americans’ love of pets by watching and exercising their dogs. (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters)
  16. Crafts business: Sell your wares at Amazon, Etsy or local crafts fairs. (Craft Industry Alliance)
  17. E-commerce business: Find a niche and use drop shipping to keep your costs down. Also sell via a marketplace like Amazon or eBay. (Internet Merchants Association)
  18. Bookkeeping service: Put your skills to work helping other businesses get their finances in order. (National Association of Professional Bookkeepers)
  19. Mobile auto detailing service: A used truck or van and some equipment will get you started on the road to success. (International Detailing Association)
  20. College admissions/financial aid consulting: Getting into college is harder and more expensive than ever; help students and their parents prepare for success. (Independent Educational Consultants Association)
  21. Buy a franchise: Find low-investment franchises at the International Franchise Association(IFA) website.

 

Are You a Small Business Owner Interested in Winning $25,000?

 

Entrepreneurs who want to win $25,000 have the opportunity to do so by entering the Mastercard Grow Your Biz Contest, in association with Bank of America. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How would $25,000 help your business grow?” by submitting a video up to 1 minute long online explaining how they could use $25,000 to improve an existing business*. Four finalists will pitch their business to the Grow Your Biz Panel in New York City on 11/14/2019 for the chance to win $25,000, in addition to an industry-expert consultation.  Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com

 

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. For Official Rules and complete details, click here.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Passion can be a powerful motivator for startup entrepreneurs. And for those starting a nonprofit business, passion is particularly important.

 

“Passion has to drive the individual or the nonprofit will fail,” said Jill Dominguez, the founder and CEO of Essergy, a consulting firm for nonprofits. “If you start a nonprofit thinking you will get rich, you’re starting it for the wrong reason.”

 

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Some of us discover our passion early in life—for others it comes later—after accumulating a lifetime of experience and knowledge. That is what happened to Brett Weiss, the founder and director of the Weiss Scholarship Foundation.

 

In 2009, Weiss, an Illinois native, then 59, headed to Dago, a small (population 3,000) village in Kenya. Weiss, in his second go-round of being a teacher (he sandwiched a career in software sales in between teaching gigs), had “always wanted to go to Africa and volunteer.” In fact, Weiss says, that’s why he returned to teaching in 2004—so he could have his summers free.

 

But like many of us, Weiss kept making “lousy excuses for not going.” Finally, a “health scare” in 2007 (thyroid cancer) gave him the “kick in the butt” he needed to join Village Volunteers and go to Dago.

 

Most residents of Dago, Weiss says, live in mud huts, without electricity or plumbing. The average family income is less than $2 a day. AIDS has decimated much of the adult population and Weiss says most children don’t have two living parents. Anyone experiencing that would be affected, but as a long-time educator, “I had to do something to help,” he said

 

He came back from Dago and got his students involved. They took on new projects every semester, including buying a cow for the village.

 

As he was preparing for his second trip in 2011, he wanted to do something “more substantial.” Drawing on his passion for education, he created the Weiss Scholarship Foundation to try to “end the cycle of extreme poverty.” At that time, most kids in Dago never went past 4th grade. High school is not free in Kenya, and most families can’t afford to send their kids. The Foundation awards high school scholarships—the first student who got a scholarship is attending university today.

To date, the Weiss Scholarship Foundation has awarded 54 four-year high school scholarships. They just started sending some of the kids who aren’t college-bound to vocational schools.

 

That’s the passion play. But what about business?

 

Weiss had never run a company before, but his father was an entrepreneur, so he was familiar with business ownership.

 

At the beginning, he did not form his own 501(c) (3) nonprofit. He “piggybacked” on another nonprofit that handled the donations, tax credits and legal and accounting issues. Weiss’s brother, a successful CEO and venture capitalist , came with him on his fifth trip to Dago—and the brothers decided to create an organization to help even more Kenyan children and become an enduring foundation—one that would last beyond Weiss’s lifetime.

 

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Weiss had to up his game. This is common among founders of nonprofits, Dominguez said. “The majority of nonprofits are started on a shoestring budget with money invested by the founders.” Indeed, up until a year ago, Weiss paid 100% of the operating expenses, adding up to about $70,000 of his savings.

 

Weiss started his own 501 (c) (3) in 2018. He admittedly knew “very little” about running a nonprofit. In the last two years he’s been on a “crash course to try to learn as much as I can. I really think of myself as an entrepreneur.”

 

He’s applied the business skills from his software sales experience—“I make lots of cold calls, on the phone and in person. Every day I repeat a line I heard so many times when I was in sales, ‘Every time you get a no, you are just one step closer to the yes.’”

 

The most challenging aspect of running the foundation for Weiss is balancing the “two parts of the job.  One is running the day-to-day operations and the other is doing short-term and long-term fundraising,” he said. “If I spend too much time on the operations part, then we are not raising enough money.”

 

Dominguez says most nonprofit startups find raising money to be their biggest challenge.  “Can you [continually] ask for money to achieve your mission? This is a different animal than starting a business. You are asking for a cause, not selling the latest tools,” she said. “You have no widget, just a belief in changing the world.”

 

To become “more professional,” Weiss turned to his network. He formed a Board of Directors (a legal requirement) and an Advisory Board, consisting of his former students. Another former student built his website for free; and one of his board members designed marketing materials.

 

Get 7 Tips on Choosing and Using Board Advisors from Carol Roth

 

If you want to help, go here.

 

The Questions to Ask Yourself

 

Do you have what it takes to start a nonprofit? Here are a list of questions Weiss asked himself before he plunged into launching a nonprofit.

 

  • I have this great idea; how can I make it real and successful?
  • Where am I going to get money?
  • What are my goals and what is my plan to make them a reality?
  • I will need help from people on the ground in Kenya. How am I going to get this help?
  • I am going to have to go to Kenya on a regular basis. How am I going to pay for this?
  • There will be other expenses. How am I going to pay for this?
  • How do I make sure this organization is always providing first-class service on a very limited budget?
  • How do I communicate with my donors and work to insure they will donate again?
  • How am I going to market this foundation with very limited resources?
  • How am I going to do this while I work my full-time job? I still need  income coming in?

 

          Read next:

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Do you want to give back? Pay it forward? Change the world?

 

There are many ways to accomplish that. In the business world, many with those goals decide to start a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.

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Navigating the world of nonprofits can be tricky. To learn more, I talked to Jill Dominguez, the founder and CEO of Essergy, a consulting firm for nonprofits about what it takes to be a nonprofit entrepreneur.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: In general, why do people start nonprofits?

 

Jill Dominguez: For the same reasons people start businesses—they see a problem and want to solve it. The same business principles apply, but your income is derived from getting donations and your success is measured by performance and trust. You don’t pay taxes on income, but you’re still operating a business—making payroll, paying payroll taxes, insurance, employee benefits, etc. A 501 (c) (3) is a tax status, not a profit margin indicator.

The biggest difference is you are selling a cause, not a widget.

 

Lesonsky: How do you get paid?

 

Dominguez: Salaries for executive directors of nonprofits are far below those of for-profit CEOs in similar fields. An executive-level salary review is required annually by nonprofits. IRS regulations keep your salaries and expenditures in line. A nonprofit has the American public to answer to as shareholders and the IRS as the “hall monitor.”

 

Lesonsky: When starting a nonprofit, what factors should you consider?

 

Dominguez: Questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge:

 

        • Know the need—and the market. Are you solving a problem that is already addressed by other nonprofits? Is what’s really needed a good volunteer and more money? Do your homework!
        • If the need is not being met, what’s the best usage of your time and effort? Should you serve on a Board of Directors and make that unmet need part of the mission of an existing nonprofit?
        • Assess your passion. Are you willing to work numerous unpaid hours, invest startup funds for your 501 (c) (3) application, learn a new skill set, new business operation rules, tax rules, accounting policies, answer to a Board of Directors? Non-profits are not for the faint of heart.

 

The real question is—can you ask for money? This is not as easy as it sounds. My rule is, “no blinking, no blushing.” If you believe in your cause enough to convince others to give you money and can spend it wisely and solve the problem you are promising to address, then go for it!

 

Lesonsky: Are there go/no go signs startup nonprofits should look for?

 

Dominguez: Yes, market drivers. Is the societal problem you are trying to solve best served by a nonprofit or are you crossing into business income territory? Do you need a 501 (c) (3) to develop a cure for what ails society? Do you need a nonprofit to tutor kids in reading or will a new education for-profit model do the same thing? Can you honestly say your nonprofit is serving a mission for public benefit that should be tax free? If in doubt, ask an expert.

 

Lesonsky: What’s the biggest challenge in starting a nonprofit?

 

Dominguez: Raising money.

 

Lesonsky: How are most nonprofits initially funded?

 

Dominguez: They’re self-funded. It takes about 18 months to get approved for 501 (c) (3) tax status and a professional to complete an application for nonprofit status. While you are waiting for approval you musttell funders all donations are pending a charitable contribution receipt. Or a fiscal agent can manage your startup.

 

Lesonsky: You’re a nonprofit guru. When you initially meet with nonprofit entrepreneurs, do you have a good idea if they’re going to succeed?

 

Dominguez: Yes, it only takes me a couple of hours. Here’s what I look for:

 

          • Do you know the problem you intend to solve?
          • Do you know your audience (those you’re helping and those who will fund you)?
          • Do you have the passion?
          • Do you have a “true believer” attitude?
          • Are you fearless?

 

I look for honesty, integrity and trust. Nonprofits are transparent. I check up on everyone. My reputation is at stake if I take you on as a client.

 

          Related Links

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Want to grow your social media following? Don’t do what I did.

 

Although I have been on Twitter for over a decade, I was still late to the party. Like many people, I didn’t really understand social media and I especially didn’t get Twitter. So, while I was early and fortunate enough to capture my name as my Twitter handle, I spent very little time back then tweeting, following, getting followers and the like.

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Dumb.

 

Some of my contemporaries were not so short-sighted and they jumped on the Twitter bandwagon with zeal. And it paid off. Anyone back then who had even a little buzz or presence was able to amass a huge Twitter following in fairly short order (in the hundreds of thousands.) And, frankly, not a few people got a large following even though they didn’t really have the chops or expertise to deserve it, but they were at the right place at the right time.

 

Once I realized that social media was not just some passing fad, I started doing the hard work of growing my social profile and presence. I did everything I was supposed to do (until I didn’t, more on that in a moment):

 

    • I created good looking social media homepages
    • I shared relevant content
    • I engaged with my followers

 

That said, I was frustrated that my following was not bigger or growing faster. So, I decided to do something about it – I bought some followers.

 

Dumb x 2.

 

I found a service and paid $99 for 1,000 Twitter followers. What a mistake. Little did I know but these were not real followers. My account was flooded with bots and fake accounts that took almost another year to clean up.

 

The lesson: There is a right way, and a wrong way, to grow your social media profile. Here’s what to do:

 

Post quality content: This is the most important rule. What you want to do is to create a feed that offers your followers content they can use. Whether you create the content or share someone else’s matters little. The important thing is to post content that people will like – that’s how you get people to follow you.

 

Mix it up: Post blogs, videos, podcasts, etc. Mix it up. Infographics and visuals especially are liked and shared, another important way to get followers: When others share your content, it is the ultimate digital word of mouth.

 

By the same token, it probably behooves you to mix up your tone as well. Sharing funny or otherwise emotional content works. Guy Kawasaki is great at this.


Use the 80-20 rule: The 80-20 rule says that 80 percent of your profit comes from 20 percent of your customers or products. The same idea should be in play here – 80 percent  of your social posting should be about your followers customers or other interests, while only 20 percent, at most, should be about you or your business.

 

Engage: People generally want to interact with you and/or your brand. Thus, the more you engage by chatting with them, re-posting their content, retweeting their tweets, and otherwise interacting with them, the more your organic following will grow.

 

Include social icons on you site, email, etc.: Include the icons of your social handles on your website, email, business card, etc. This allows those who come in contact with you to like and follow you.

 

Follow followers: This is one of my favorite tricks. There is a “Twittiquette” that says if someone follows you, you should follow them back. Now, this is by no means a hard and fast rule, but it is generally something that is followed.

 

As such, if you look at the followers of the leaders of your industry and follow them, they just may follow you back. Similarly, look for hashtags that are often used in your business and follow those people who use those hashtags. They too may follow you back.

 

Buy paid advertising: This is completely different from the mistake I made. On Facebook, you can buy Facebook ads that are designed to increase your Likes, and it works.

 

The great news is that, while all these efforts take time, they don’t cost much (even the ads are affordable.) As such, growing your social following can be one of the cheapest, easiest ways to find and get more customers.

 

Even better, they are real, as opposed to fake bots.

 

Follow @SteveStrauss and all the rest of our Small Business Community contributors on Twitter!

 

Read next:

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

There’s one fundamental difference between an experienced business owner and an aspiring entrepreneur.

 

An experienced business owner knows the value of an idea.

 

They know an idea is worth… nothing. Not a dime. Even a good idea.

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That’s because ideas alone are easy. You probably have at least one every time you take a shower. The hot water goes on, you close your eyes, and immediately you have a vision of a product that will make you millions.

 

It happens to all of us, all the time.

 

But how many of those ideas have you built? How many of the ideas that have appeared to you in a flash while you were soaping up have become real products that you created and marketed? None, right?

 

That’s probably because none of those ideas came with a detailed production and marketing plan  you could follow step-by-step. They didn’t come with a skilled team already in place. And they certainly didn’t come with funding.

 

Ideas are easy. Implementation—that’s hard.

 

That’s why you have to choose your business ideas carefully. You can have a new idea every day but turning that idea into a business takes time, effort, energy and money. It might be a year or two before you really know whether that flash of inspiration really is a million-dollar spark or just the light bouncing off a soap bubble.

 

You have to learn to filter out the genuinely winning ideas from the concepts that will break apart at the first sign of pressure.

 

There are lots of different ways to do that. You can conduct market research to see how similar products or services are being received. You can bring together focus groups and ask people whether they’d buy what you want to make. You can even use crowdfunding sites to see whether people like your idea so much that they’re willing to pay for it in advance.

 

All of those methods have value. Some of them will be essential. (You can’t build a product without doing at least some market research.) But none of them is perfect.

 

Market research only tells you how similar products to your idea have performed. It won’t tell you how your idea will perform. Focus groups aren’t made of real customers holding their real, earned dollar bills, and people never know what they want until it’s right in front of them. Even crowdfunded projects that built an audience and raised funds haven’t always generated a product. Some have raised millions on the back of an idea that turned out to be impossible to build.

 

A wild idea? Good

 

There’s a better way to measure the potential in an idea.

 

You measure its wildness. Not just how wild the idea is, but how wild you feel about it.

 

The more enthusiasm you feel for an idea, the greater the likelihood that other people will feel the same way. Not all of them will feel as crazy about it as you but some will, and plenty of others will feel just enough enthusiasm to pay for it.

 

That’s not guaranteed, of course. When it comes to picking ideas, there are no guarantees for commercial success. But the depth of your enthusiasm is a reasonably good proxy for the market value of an idea.

 

And even if it isn’t, even if you’re nuts about a concept, spend a couple of years developing it, and find that it doesn’t fly, you’ll still have achieved something awesome.

 

You’ll have had fun.

 

You’ll have spent two years building a business that made you proud and that you enjoyed building.

 

That’s another sign of an experienced business owner. They understand that they can’t predict what will happen at the end of the production process. They know they can’t control what their customers do when the product is ready. But they do know that they can control what they do—and they can control whether they’re happy as they build their business.

As you’re reviewing the ideas you dream up in the shower, don’t pick the first one you thought of. Pick the last one you’re still thinking of.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, students at Stanford, came up with an idea for a better search engine. Page and Brin’s insight was that a webpage was likely more valuable if a lot of other webpages linked to it. Accordingly, their new search engine – Google.Stanford.edu– ranked highly-linked pages higher, thus offering better search results.

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The two young founders were soon asked to give a demonstration of their work to legendary Silicon Valley investor Andy Bechtolsheim. He was so impressed that he wrote out a check for $100,000 on the spot, to “Google, Inc.”

 

The problem was that the two young founders were unable to deposit the check because they had forgotten to incorporate their business, so the check sat in Sergei’s desk drawer for two weeks until they completed that step.

 

I’m sure you’re thinking that Google is a unique story, but I am here to tell you it is not; it’s almost an ordinary one. It’s not unusual for a startup to get a sudden influx of cash from inverstors and they must be prepared to process that investment when they do.

 

This all then begs the question: What exactly makes a business a good investment to a so-called “angel investor?” If you’re looking for investors, here are some of the top things they look for in a business:

 

1. Opportunity: Bechtolsheim saw an opportunity in Google unlike any other, and while that is rare, what Bechtolsheim was seeking was not: namely, an opportunity to invest his money and make a good return.

 

Do you ever watch Shark Tank? Same thing.

 

Presenting your business as a great opportunity is vital. Investors need to see that by helping you, they can help themselves, and that comes from not wanting to miss a golden opportunity. Your job then, as the entrepreneur, is to show them that your idea/business is that opportunityand offers something unique to the marketplace.

 

2. The competition: Google, at the time of its initial investment, had competitors in an emerging field, but none that dominated the market. Remember AltaVista, Ask Jeeves or Lycos? Today, in most industries, there is a lot of competition. As such, you need to show investors that you not only know who the competitors are, but that you are better than them.

 

3. The financials: Again, let’s think about Shark Tank. Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful himself, is all about one thing: Money. And the money is based on financials. Does the business show enough promise and profit that the investor will see a substantial return in a short amount of time (a few years at most)?

 

The financials will tell you.

 

Knowing your numbers is critical in showing investors you mean business. Investors want to know what you’re doing with their money, and why. Having a business plan with realistic financials is critical.

 

4. The team: Bechtolsheim believed in Page and Brin, and indeed, few things impress investors more than a great team. Often that is what the investor is really investing in, the team. As such, the quality of your team is vital in selling your company’s worth to an investor. A great team has credentials, experience, smarts, contacts, charisma and mad skills.

 

5. You: In order to run with the big dogs, you need to act like one. Show investors you belong. Explain why you deserve their money, and what they can gain from investing in YOU. Because in the end, you are your businesses biggest asset.

 

Bottom line: There are a lot of ways to find investors these days, and it can be a challenging process. Making sure that you have these five things down pat will go a long way to ensuring that when you do find that right investor, and get to make that all-important pitch, you will stand out from the crowd.

 

Investors are out there, and they wantto invest in great businesses. Give them that chance. Prepare to impress, and then prepare some more.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

   

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

  

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story—even when it’s not literal. One of my favorite examples is author J.K. Rowling who was collecting welfare benefits while writing the first Harry Potter book.

 

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While Mary Molina’s story isn’t quite that grand – yet – her path is an inspiring one. Molina’s LOLA snacks can now be found in stores across the country, including CVS, Costco, and Target, but her company had a humble beginning in 2011 when Molina and her husband were struggling financially. Her husband had just closed his business, Molina was unemployed, and the family was receiving social service support. Today, her business, located in Westchester County, N.Y., has more than 34 employees and contract workers.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What led you to start a business?

 

Mary Molina: It was a really hard time in our lives. My husband, who had a commission-only sales job, had been eating off of value menus at lunch and was starting to feel unwell. He asked me to make him a snack to help get him through the day. Since my children also have allergies, we eat very clean. I grabbed what I had on hand and made protein bars. I packed the protein bars in his lunch bag, labeling them LOLA Granola, after our daughter. He loved them and so did his co-workers.

 

Lesonsky: Once you learned people at his work wanted the bars, what did you do?

 

Molina: I packed extra bars for his co-workers, who then started asking to buy them. I quickly did a cost analysis to make sure I wouldn’t lose money, then called different agencies to find out how to get certified.

 

Lesonsky: How did you get your bars into a store?

 

Molina: In May 2011, I walked in Who’s Cooking in Croton Falls and asked if they would sell my protein bars. They said yes!

 

Lesonsky: At what point did you think this was the start of a “real” business?

 

Molina: About two weeks after I started selling into small cafes, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with production. I needed to rent a larger space, but that would cut into my very small profit margin. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I met with a SCORE small business advisor and realized if I wanted this to be a real business with maximum growth potential, I would need to go into automated manufacturing.

Lesonsky:How did you go from local stores to Whole Foods?

 

Molina: At a fundraising event for the Food Bank for Westchester (which had been helping feed my family) we were handing out samples of LOLA bars and were introduced to Whole Foods. They wanted to carry LOLA Bars, but our packaging wasn’t right for grocery stores. So, in 2013, they asked us to come in through an in-store farmer’s market and sell directly to their customers. It was amazing—we sold 200 bars in three hours.

Lesonsky:How did you solve the packaging issue?

 

Molina: This was my biggest challenge. The packaging had to be food safe, have barriers to protect from moisture, mold, etc. Not knowing the packaged food industry, I turned to Google. It took four days of searching before I found the Prepared Foods Packaging Association website. Now I had people to call and ask a million questions. Once I had packaging, I found a manufacturer to produce my bars.

 

Lesonsky: How did you get your products carried by Costco?

 

Molina: First I called several brokers, but they wanted an up-front retainer, so I called Costco HQ to get more info and the buyer answered the phone. I told her my story and she wanted samples.

 

Lesonsky: How do you differentiate your bars from the competition?

 

Molina: LOLA Bars are the only VEGAN Protein + Probiotic Bars on the market with 1 Billion CFUs.

 

Lesonsky: What are your goals?

 

Molina: My goal is to launch more products and get into more retail outlets. I want to be the next brand in Starbucks.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Side hustles are a great way to start a business, while keeping your day job or a smart way to start or test an additional business. One increasingly common side hustle is selling products online. But what’s the best way to do it? Here’s a closer look at the best platforms for starting an e-commerce side hustle.

 

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There are two basic options for selling online if you don’t want to build your own e-commerce site:

 

  1. Online marketplacesare like digital shopping malls. You rent a “space” in a larger marketplace.
  2. Hosted e-commerce platforms are like freestanding stores with landlords. You customize your online store using their software; they handle the behind-the-scenes stuff like site hosting and software maintenance.

 

Online marketplaces

 

Amazon

Almost half of all U.S. online spending takes place on Amazon, where 83 percent of U.S. consumers have bought something in the past six months. The third-party sellers who account for over 50 percent of Amazon’s total unit sales are benefiting from that exposure.

 

Amazon’s Individual plans (starting at $0.99/sale) are an affordable way to test the waters but limit the number and type of products you can sell. For unlimited items and product categories, choose a Professional plan (starting at $39.99/month). Simplify your life and use Fulfillment by Amazon to handle packing and shipping for you.

 

Etsy

You can sell handmade goods, craft supplies or vintage products (at least 20-years old) on Etsy. The Standard plan is free to join. Just create an Etsy account, select a shop name, create a listing ($0.20 per item, plus fees when it sells), and choose how you want to be paid and pay your fees. Accept payments via credit and debit cards, PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay and more.

 

Etsy offers tools to promote your products, customize your store and design a website powered by Etsy; it also providesshipping labels and discounts. Upgrade to a Plus plan ($10/month) for additional marketing tools; a Premium plan will launch later this year.

 

eBay

eBay isn’t just an auction site anymore. You can sell both used and new items and choose from auction-style or fixed-price listings. You can start with a Personal account, but for those looking to scale, a Business account offers more functionality. Listing up to 50 items per month is free; you pay $10 of the Final Value after an item sells. eBay provides shipping labels and postage discounts.

 

For additional selling tools, bigger shipping discounts, and lower Final Value fees, set up an eBay Store. This lets you designa custom homepageand access a wide range oflisting tools to help you manage your business better.

 

Hosted e-commerce platforms

 

BigCommerce

If you have big plans for your side hustle, BigCommerce could be for you. Big businesses and small startups alike use BigCommerce to create e-commerce sites using responsive design templates with best-in-class SEO built in.

 

BigCommerce also features built-in selling on Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook and Pinterest—with no transaction fees. The Standard plan ($29.99/month) is ideal for startups and offers a free trial.

 

Shopify

Basic Shopify ($29/month) is also great for side hustles. Design your e-commerce website and blog using one of Shopify’s theme templates with drag-and-drop ease. You get 24/7 support and can sell via online marketplaces and social media.

 

Want to start reallysmall? Use Shopify Lite ($9/month) to sell on Facebook and communicate with your customers via Facebook Messenger. Want to do more? Shopify offers tools to help you do everything from choosing your domain name to marketing your business and accepting payments.

 

Volusion

Use Volusion’s responsive website themes to create an e-commerce site with features including inventory management, unlimited storage and product listings, and secure checkout and payment collection. It accepts payments via Stripe, PayPal or Apple Pay.

 

Volusion has built-in SEO tools and a comprehensive management hub that lets you see customer details, create discounts, and enable flat, free or special shipping rates. The personal account ($29/month) has everything you need and offers a free trial.

 

Take some time to explore all the options. By choosing the solution that best fits your budget, product mix, and target customers, you’ll put your side hustle on the road to success.

 

READ NEXT:

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

In the past, employees of large enterprises had careers lasting 20-30 years with the same company that would in return come with a company retirement or pension benefit.Times are different. In the U.S. today, there are 42 million formally identified freelancers which makes up more than 40% of the workforce.

 

75% of employees employed as freelancers/contractors/gig workers plan to start their own business at some point in the future.

 

When working as an Independent Contractor/Sole Proprietorship, the key word is flexibility. You can work as a freelancer or even run a physical, on the ground business. Depending on your career/businesses evolution, the lines of personal vs. business transactions/expenses can be blurred. That being said, it is always a good idea to keep at least a separate credit card designated for business expenses so that when the time comes to write off business expenses it isn’t overwhelming. As a sole proprietor, you can even write off a home office as long as certain IRS guidelines are met. Whether the business has achieved sustainability in revenue or the day to day operations have simply become too complex, these are typically good signs to start looking into the type of business to incorporate. Another good reason to consider incorporating is the potential for limited liability.

 

The difference between someone who is self-employed and a small business owner is that those who are self-employed typically do not have employees and do not hire contractors. Small business owners tend to hire employees and contractors.

 

There are many factors that come into play when deciding what type of business entity to create. It would be prudent to make this decision while incorporating the contractor’s long term intentions. Factors to consider are the type of professional practice, if you are simply an independent contractor, if you will be creating a product/hiring employees, or if you’re acting as a freelancer providing a service. Once this important decision is defined, the logical next steps would be to solidify routines of how your business will be tracking expenses, type of benefits to offer (retirement/health), how you plan on keeping track of/paying taxes (state/federal/self-employment tax), and to leverage the advice from an attorney/tax advisor.

 

Simplified steps to consider in creating and operating a small business

 

1)    Determine, with the assistance of your attorney/tax advisor, an appropriate business type (LLC / S corp / partnership / C corp / single member LLC)

2)    Apply for a Tax ID Number and other Tax Registrations

3)    Register your Business Name

4)    Open a business checking account

5)    Establish a Business Record Keeping System (business credit card etc.)

6)    Determine what type of benefits to offer yourself/employees (retirement/health, etc.)

7)    Decide on what type of business expenses you can deduct (travel expenses/home office, etc.)

 

Consulting with a Small Business Banker can help you review account types for the business and the different services to consider to run your business.

 

As pension plans become a thing of the past, there is increased uncertainty surrounding retirement for contractors/small businesses. In addition to the phase out of pensions, many individuals that participate in the gig economy are not offered an employer 401(k) plan either. The end result of this is for the contractor/business owner to determine what type of Small Business Retirement Plan may best suit their needs.

 

Small Business Retirement Plan offerings

 

1)    Small Business 401(k)

2)    SEP IRA

3)    SIMPLE IRA

 

Consulting with a Financial Solutions Advisor can help you identify appropriate retirement account types (when the time is right) and considerations in the decision. If working with Bank of America and Merrill Edge, a joint meeting can be set up with both a Small Business Banker and a Financial Solutions Advisor in order to address your needs.

 

 

 

Neither Bank of America, Merrill Lynch nor any of its affiliates or financial advisors provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.

 

The external links provided above will take you to a third party's website that is not sponsored or endorsed by Bank of America Small Business Retirement.

 

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Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. Banking products are offered by Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC and wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

 

Bank of America, N.A. provides informational reading materials for your discussion and review purposes only. Please consult your tax advisor, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

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Merrill Edge® is available through Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (MLPF&S) and consists of the Merrill Edge Advisory Center (investment guidance) and self-directed online investing.

 

Banking products are provided by Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC and a wholly owned subsidiary of BofA Corp.

Investment products:

 

Are Not FDIC InsuredAre Not Bank GuaranteedMay Lose Value

 

MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, Member SIPC and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation. © 2018 Bank of America Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

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A few years ago, I wrote a book with 15 co-authors from around the world called Planet Entrepreneur. I learned many lessons from that experience (including not to try and write a book with 15 other people.) More importantly, I discovered the many ways entrepreneurs act on their inherent idealism.

 

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Globally, this is often called “social entrepreneurship,” meaning, using entrepreneurial skills and tactics to accomplish societal goals. For instance, one of my co-authors was using his MBA to bring electrical lighting to rural India; not something you usually associate with entrepreneurship.

 

Here at home, social entrepreneurship often takes the form of starting a non-profit or a charity. Is it difficult to do? Well, how is this for an answer: It is no more or less difficult than starting a business.

 

Here are the steps to take if this is your goal:

 

1. Have a specific vision and goal: There is a local sportscaster where I live who started a non-profit intended to help disadvantaged kids get into youth sports. He raises money to give them footballs, basketballs, soccer uniforms, and so on. It is a specific goal that fits his passion and brand. That’s the ticket.

 

The point is, if you want to start a charity, you should have a specific goal or purpose in mind. Make it narrow enough that it is easy to understand, and important enough that people will want to help you accomplish it.

 

That last point is vital. As the creator of the charity, you will necessarily be in front. You must get  people excited with your vision. So, make sure you choose a focus that revs your motor and people can get behind.

 

As with a business, you will know what is unique and different about your intended non-profit. The National Center for Charitable Statistics states there are 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S. That is a lot of competition – for eyeballs, buzz, funding, and so on. To stand out, you must do something different, special.

 

2. Draft a business plan: Just as with a for-profit business, a charity or non-profit needs a business plan. You will use it to define your vision, raise money, and give specific action steps to your lofty goals.

 

In it, you should discuss:

 

  • What the charity will be
  • How it is unique
  • Why it is needed
  • Who it will serve
  • Strategies for funding
  • Likely donors

 

And so on. My favorite tool for business planning is bplans. They have a good article on the subject here.

 

3. Make it legal: First, you will need a name. Choose wisely. Make it memorable.

 

Next, you will need to create a 501(c)(3). This is the section of the tax code that deals with charities and non-profits. A 501(c)(3) is the legal structure your charity needs to take. It is akin to incorporating. You can create it yourself using a site like LegalZoom, or work with an attorney.

 

After, you will file the non-profit’s Articles of Incorporation with your state, and then you will need to apply for tax-exempt status from both the IRS as well as your particular state.

 

4. Choose a board of directors: Your board helps set policy and direction and should be a major help with fundraising.

 

 

5. Get funded: Funding is the challenging part for most non-profits. It is an ongoing process. You will need funding to launch, and continued funding for operations. There are all sorts of models out there that you will need to learn about, including foundations, grants, individual giving, legacy giving, and so on.

 

The good news is that people want to help. If you have a strong and unique vision, a lean operation (meaning, most money goes to those you are trying to help and not your overhead), and a solid plan, you should find plenty of people and organizations who will want to assist you.

 

  • Ready to find grants and sponsorships?  Review the community grants and sponsorships offered from Bank of America to help benefit your nonprofit organization. Our grants can be used as general operating support as well.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

If you work in the technology industry, you’re familiar with the concept of a pivot. Pivoting reflects the need to change or adjust your products or services to better meet market demands, and it is quite common for tech startups to change course as business needs evolve. Yet one tech company in New Jersey pivoted in a different way: its startup art-close-up-ecology-886521.jpgsuccess led them to evolve their offerings to mentor other startups, creating an incubator for entrepreneurs and young businesses to learn and build. I spoke with Ritika Singh, the CEO of InnCreTechin Princeton, N.J., about how her firm focuses on growing small businesses in innovation and technology.

 

Ebong Eka: What does InnCreTech mean/stand for?

 

Ritika Singh: InnCreTech is an acronym for Innovation, Creativity and Technology.

 

Eka: Tell us about InnCreTech and what your company does?

 

Singh: We are a software engineering firm and wework with many startups in the field of Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, Healthcare and the emerging Blockchain     space. We give startups access to our core tech team and product management team in-house and help with decision making. For example, we mentor startups on how to scope the initial product requirement and deciding between “must have” and “good to have” features in the product.

 

Eka: What opportunity or opportunities did you see in the marketplace that led to starting InnCreTech?

 

Singh: InnCreTech was launched like a traditional tech startup. It transformed into a tech incubator after being approached by several startups for tech advice and development. We also help small businesses that cannot afford an engineering arm or in-house tech services.

 

Technology is always an expensive investment and a wrong tech partnership or development can be very costly in terms of time and money for any company. Large companies also utilize our services in data science and blockchain field when they want to do a research or a prototype in a fixed span of time.

 

Eka: Who are your ideal clients?

 

Singh: Our ideal clients are early-stage startups and enterprises seeking access to advanced technology and the utilization of innovative processes to better their business models. We want clients who are working on bleeding-edge technologies, looking to innovate and move at a fast pace in today’s competitive landscape.

 

Eka: How does InnCreTech help these small businesses achieve better results?

 

Singh: We help our customers elevate their business by harnessing the power of advanced technology. We are constantly innovating and re-engineering our approach to find optimal tech solutions for them. We make sure the technology component for our small business clients is not risky. We are also experts in advanced and emerging tech fields, so we can help more traditional business models embrace innovative technologies.

 

Eka: For tech startups, what do you believe are the two most important steps for building a  successful startup?

 

Apart from “be agile in approach,”, my two pieces of advice would be:

 

1.     Market research.This is a very important step for any startup, so please do your homework. There should always be a need for your product in the market.

 

2.     Listen and be ready to pivot. Listening is the key. Customers should guide what you want to build - and if that means making some changes to your product or service, a pivot, then go for it.

 

Eka: What are the qualities of the ideal startup for InnCreTech to invest in?

 

Singh: The startups that work with us have one thing in common: they are trying to solve a problem. We equip all our startups with cutting-edge technologies so they are not left behind. Our goal is to help promising entrepreneurs achieve their vision based on sound engineering and best practices.

 

 

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About Ebong Eka

 

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Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

One of the universal truths about entrepreneurship is that it is difficult. Creating a business involves a lot of time, capital, connections, pivoting and a bit of luck. For some people who want to do something on their own but don’t necessarily want to start from “Square One,” franchising can be a great option.

 

While it is less creative, the benefits of franchise ownership include a proven market concept, assistance on site locations, marketing, purchasing, build-out (if a physical unit) and much more. Getting to start at “Square Three” can improve the odds of success, although it does curtail part of the upside. That tradeoff can be well worth it, depending on your objectives.

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But, as with any entrepreneurial endeavor, you must research and evaluate before rushing into starting a franchise. To help you know what you need to know, I reached out to

“The Franchise King,” Joel Libava, who teaches individuals how to make smart, fact-based decisions on buying a franchise and is the author of Become A Franchise Owner. Here are his top recommendations of what you need to know and do before going into the franchise evaluation process.

 

1. Know Yourself. Not everyone was cut out for entrepreneurship and the same can be said for franchising. Libava says that you need to make sure you are the right type of person to own a franchise.

 

For example,” says Libava, “ask yourself, ‘Am I a rule follower?’ If so, franchise business ownership is worth a look. But, if you’d rather be the person who makes the rules, and/or likes to break them, owning a franchise will turn out to be a miserable experience for you, as the franchise business model is very rigid. If you become a franchisee, you’ll be expected to follow everything to the letter. Remember, when you buy a franchise you’re buying a business system. One that needs to be followed for it to work.”

 

Libava also created a free quiz to help you assess if you are a good fit for franchise ownership, which you can take here.

 

2. Educate Yourself on the Business Model. Libava says that is easy to think that because it’s a franchise, all you need to do is follow a plan and then the money will come pouring in. It is never that easy. Libava recommends you gain a complete understanding of how the franchise business you’re interested in works.

 

“Some of that information will come from the conversations you’ll have with the franchise development representative,” says Libava. “But, to get to the heart of the matter, you’ll need to talk with franchisees. After all, they’re the ones who are living and breathing the business you’re interested in buying. Here are a few questions to ask them:

 

     1. Can you describe your typical day for me, from beginning to end?

     2. What does the franchisor provide to help you operate your business efficiently and profitably?

     3. Can you name a few things you feel the franchisor could be doing a better job with?

     4. What is your favorite part of the business and what do you dislike the most?

     5. What do I need to know- that you wish you knew before you became a franchisee?”

 

This approach will make sure that you are fully educated about the responsibility you are going to take on.

 

3. Understand Your Finances. The reality is that it takes money to make money. Before you can be considered to purchase a franchise, and in order for it to be successful, you need to be acquainted with your personal financials. You need to set up a budget for your franchise business investment. You also need to determine how much liquid capital you have to work with, as you’ll be using a portion for the total franchise investment. You can calculate your net worth using this free tool.

 

4. Onboard Your Loved Ones. This is often an area that is underestimated by entrepreneurs, but Libava emphasizes that “your family needs to know your plans, including how much money you’re thinking of investing, how fast you think you’ll be able to make it back, how many hours you’ll have to put in and other key items that can affect those close to you. The bottom line is you need them to be fully on board. Because if they’re not, your chance of success will be severely diminished.”  

 

5. Be Willing to Spend Money. Even evaluating a franchise opportunity is not for the stingy. “If you find what you feel is a good franchise opportunity, you’ll need to invest in, at a minimum: travel to franchise headquarters for an in-person visit, (ii) an accountant who’s familiar with small businesses, preferably franchise businesses and (iii) the services of a franchise attorney,” Libava counsels. This money is spent to make sure your ultimate investment is properly allocated and you understand what you are getting into.

 

6. Have the Courage to Pull the Trigger. “Looking at franchise opportunities is one thing. Determining which one to buy, and then actually making the purchase, is a different story,” Libava says. “And, it takes time.” The process can be a grueling one. He notes the process of finding and researching franchise opportunities usually takes three to four months. Make sure you’re ready to invest the time needed and can make the commitment at the end of the process, so that you don’t waste time and money. 

 

7. Understand That Franchise Ownership isn’t Bulletproof. As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, there are no guarantees. You should have a positive outlook, but be realistic that life and luck sometimes get in the way. “While you can’t guarantee your success, you can improve your odds by doing your homework and having enough money to invest and give the business a chance to succeed” Libava says. “It’s often worth it, because being your own boss is a wonderful thing.”

 

To make your franchise hunt and execution successful, make a commitment up-front that if you find a franchise you feel you can be successful owning, you’ll invest in the research, take professional advice and ultimately, buy the business. Then, the fun of franchise ownership truly begins.

 

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About Carol Roth

 

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Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

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