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Raising prices is one of the hardest things for many small businesses owners. It can be a huge risk because customers generally don’t take price hikes well. Every business owner must make the hard decision to raise prices or risk shutting their doors. The reality is you don’t have to lose clients every time you raise prices; especially if you know what to do.

First, over-deliver



Customers appreciate exceptional service and generally reward businesses for it. As a result, clients will happily pay extra for quality. Before communicating about the price increase, woo your existing clients with additional services. Over deliver so that your service or product value exceeds what they pay for; they will happily pay for the extra cost.


     Related Content: How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out

Communicate the intended changes


Letting your clients know you’re going to raise prices builds trust between you and your clients. Surprising your clients and customers with price increases will put them off. It’s even worse to learn of the price hike when they are ready to pay. Let your clients know you will raise prices and give them a good reason why.


Explaining to your clients the reasons you’re raising prices can be a challenge. Your responsibility is to differentiate yourself and your service from the next competitor without using price as a factor.


Take time and let the clients know why you are raising your rates and how doing so will lead to better results for their benefit. Emphasize how they will benefit with the new prices and focus on how they can expect even better customer service.

Right timing


Before announcing the new prices, make sure your current clients are satisfied with your products or services. Technology has made it easy for companies to interact with their clients. All a company needs to do is go online to check reviews or call clients for feedback. Announcing price hikes for a company with glowing reviews can have a positive impact compared to a business struggling with a bad reputation. 

     Related Content: How to Increase Authentic Business Reviews on Facebook

Add something extra


What can you throw in the package that will cost you little, or nothing? What bonuses and additional services can you offer? In a recent session I hosted, I shared how a plumbing business raised prices by offering a free water-waste evaluation as a bonus.


The plumber evaluates a potential client’s water usage to determine if there are cost saving opportunities. If those exist, the plumber could offer an additional package at a higher price. There’s always an opportunity to boost your business and raise your prices by giving a bonus for the price change.

If handled correctly, raising your prices shouldn’t have a negative impact on your business. After all, every business goes through growth phases and will have to revise their rates at some point.

Finally, ensure that your employees understand the reasons behind the change in prices so they can effectively communicate those changes with your existing clients. Raising your prices is necessary for increasing your sales. More importantly, raising your prices can lead to delivering better services for your clients.


     Related Content: 10 Easy Ways to Quickly Boost Sales



About Ebong Eka


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: 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

When you are a small company, signing a big, name-brand company may be a dream come true. Not only do big companies have bigger budgets than their smaller counterparts, but they add tremendous credibility and appeal to a small business’s client roster, potentially leading to more business.


However, this entrepreneurial dream can turn into a nightmare for businesses who aren’t well-versed in the work process of bigger corporations. Here are some of the issues to be prepared for before you solicit and agree to work with a big corporate client.


     Related Content: 5 Simple Steps to Getting Corporate Clients


Lengthy and Detailed Vetting and Sell-cycle



First, it can take a long time to get through a big company’s approval process. There are many managers who may require approval, budget cycles to align with and more.


And just when you think you are finished, you’ve only just begun!


Second, major corporations are quite careful about protecting their reputations, so many have a thorough vetting process for each vendor to ensure they are not associated with any business that could become a public relations problem for them down the road.


Be prepared for a vetting that seems like a cross between the Spanish Inquisition and a TSA extended pat-down. This may include giving up sensitive information about your best clients, your revenue, how much your top clients account for in terms of revenue and even background on the executives.


Third, many big businesses outsource this vetting to a third-party provider who may ask things that seem irrelevant to your business or the scope of your proposed work with the company, but are just part of the process.


Crazy Contract Terms


Big company legal departments like to earn their keep and that often shows up in standardized, but somewhat insane, legal agreements and policies. This can range from required non-disclosure agreements to travel and ethics policies and more.


     Related Content: Q&A : Fighting is Expensive. What to do if You Are Sued


When you work with small and mid-size businesses, you may be able to negotiate certain aspects of these agreements or get workarounds for key terms, but it is very difficult to do the same with larger entities.


I have seen contracts that ask for industry exclusivity for relatively small value contracts and others that ask for full name and likeness rights and even those that prohibit entrepreneurs from making political donations. Read these contracts carefully, then consult with a lawyer and make sure that you not only understand what you are agreeing to, but that it’s worth what you are gaining from the relationship.


Extra Insurance Requirements


Many big businesses require your business to carry all kinds of supplemental insurance at certain levels. Some of the types of insurance you may be required to carry include general liability, commercial auto, employer’s liability, worker’s compensation and professional liability/errors and omissions insurance.


This can become frustrating for multiple reasons. First, the type of insurance required may not even be relevant to your business or the engagement at hand, but because it’s a company policy, you still haveto spend additional – and not insignificant – money for no reason other than it’s a policy and a cost of obtaining the business.

Second, many insurance companies that service small business don’t carry all of the types of insurance you are required by your client to carry or they may not carry the coverage at the levels required by the client. You can work with a broker to piece together the coverage you need or you can seek to get an exemption.


     Related Content: Six Tips to Get Paid on Time


Slow Pay


Big companies are good at managing cash flow, which means you need to be good at managing yours as well, because they often take anywhere from 30 to 90 days to pay. Some even have a non-negotiable discount if they pay you within a reasonable amount of time, so you need to factor that in when you set your payment terms.


You may also consider asking for a retainer up front and/or payment staged at milestones as a method of ensuring that your own cash flow doesn’t suffer while you provide services.


     Related Content: Cash Flow Management Resource Center


Big Corporate Politics


The final issue to be prepared for is the challenges of navigating internal politics. As mentioned above, corporate structures can impact initial sales cycles, but sometimes, even when you are entrenched and continuing to work with the big company, it can remain an issue.


This can be exacerbated by frequent turnover in key departments or having to work with different departments who may have ownership of different facets of the goods and services you are providing. The best advice here is to be patient but persistent and never become complacent. Red tape can be frustrating, but do what you can to be your own advocate.


Big companies can truly help a small business enter the big leagues, but they can also be a big pain in the backside. Your expectations and preparation can help soothe that pain so you see more benefit for your efforts.


About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

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: 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.

As a small business owner, there will likely come a time when you need to plan an event. It could be a big sale, a company-wide get-together, a day-long seminar, or what have you. The question is, how do you do it?


Not surprisingly, the devil is in the details. Planning a successful event has everything to do with planning. This can be broken into two main categories:


     1. Clarifying your objectives

     2. Scheduling


Let’s dig into both:


1. Clarifying your objectives: Obviously, you have a good idea about the event you want to put on and why you are doing it. That said, you can better marshal your resources (efforts, finances, etc.) by thinking through what it is you want to get out of the program.



For example, if the goal of your event is to generate immediate sales, then you will need to advertise in such a way and in such places that your message gets out to people most likely to respond. Conversely, if your goal is to build your brand in the community, then you would want to involve community groups in your planning and promotion.


Once you are clear on what you want to do and what success will look like, then the real work begins – digging into the nitty-gritty of scheduling the event.


2. Event planning checklist: Beginning four months out, you will want to do the following:


Four months before the event:


  • Set a date. Note, for business events, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are generally tougher sells
  • Establish a budget
  • Appoint a point-person / event coordinator
  • Identify potential partners
  • Compile an invitation list of customers, prospects, sponsors, community and business groups
  • Outline promotional efforts


Three months before the event:


  • Scout and choose a location. The right location is vital. Are you going for something more casual or more serious? The location sets the tone
  • Reach out to potential co-sponsors
  • Meet with caterers and outline food and beverage needs


Two months before the event:


  • Share event details with co-sponsors and other partners for their own marketing. Additionally, outline everyone’s duties and your expectations
  • Send out ‘save the date’ notices to your list
  • Order marketing and display materials
  • Order audio-visual equipment (podium, microphones, speakers, etc.)


One month before the event:


  • Identify potential media interest and send promotional email outlining event details (avoid sending a press release)
  • Send actual invite, including RSVP
  • Launch marketing, including social posts and website updates


Two weeks before the event:


  • Follow up with media
  • Follow up with partners
  • Continue social media
  • Send reminder emails
  • Give caterer a final head count
  • Event location walkthrough. Confirm it has enough infrastructure (electrical outlets, audiovisual, trashcans, coat checks, etc.)


One week before the event:


  • Go over event details with your team
  • Assign duties
  • Make name tags, if appropriate
  • Pack needed supplies
  • Double check that you have enough chairs, food ordered, etc.


Day of event:


  • Arrive early
  • Set up event room


After the event:


  • Send thank yous
  • Follow-up on leads


And if everything goes according to plan, or close to it, start thinking about your next event!




Related Content: Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event by Dhani Jones



About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png


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 Success. © Steven D. Strauss.


Web: 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


This week on the Post Some Live podcast, Steve Strauss interviews Daria Knowles of Hot Skwash. Hot Skwash by Daria is a family business that designs and manufactures high-end home décor. Listen to her story about moms coming together and the importance of positive online reviews.


Listen in iTunes Listen in Google Play



Post Some Love: Hot Skwash Podcast Transcript

Intro music

Steve Strauss:            So, you were a stay-at-home mom at the time?


Daria Knowles:          Yeah! Stay-at-home. Just moved here, had been here for about a year. Met some other mommies at school that loved the pumpkins, and had said “oh, I’d love to go into the field and get stems with you.” And I’m thinking ok… Well as soon as Richard…Richard from Richard Blooms he came back in January with 12,000 dollars in orders, I immediately called my friends and said, “I need help.”



Steve Strauss:            Hi! I’m Steve Strauss, USA Today’s Senior Small Business Columnist. And author [00:00:30] of the Small Business Bible and you’re listening to the Post Some Love series on Bank of America’s small business podcast. This is the series where we speak with small business owners about their journey and share some of their great customer reviews. This episode of Post Some Love features Daria Knowles of Hot Skwash. Located just outside of beautiful Portland, Oregon, Hot Skwash by Daria is a family business that designs and manufactures high-end couture tabletop décor. It was a business that evolved from a modest home-based hobby selling crafts to family and friends, to a 9,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that employs over 20 people, and distributes their home décor to over 500 independent retailers as well as some really big-name clients, like Gump’s and a whole lot more. So, Daria, great to have you on the show!

Daria Knowles:          Thank you.


Steve Strauss:            Why don’t you tell us, just to start with, a little bit about yourself, how long have you been in business, that kind of thing.


Daria Knowles:          Well, I’m originally from the East Coast. And, I was a stay-at-home mom, two small children, and I decided, how can I make a little extra money? Really, just a little mad money, and…


Steve Strauss:            Had you ever been an entrepreneur before?


Daria Knowles:          No, when I was little I used to knit and sew mittens, and I used to knit sweaters and sell them because I’ve always been, sort of, “what can I make?” And my mom taught me to knit when I was very, very little. And I’ve always been in love with textiles, and fabric, and yarn. And honestly, at the time I was living in Arizona with two small kids and I saw this fabric pumpkin with a stick stem, and I was sort of looking at lots of fabrics at that time as well, because we moved into a new house and I wanted drapes, and I wasn’t going to pay a fortune for the drapes. So, I really started admiring all the different types of high-end fabrics. So, when I saw this pumpkin, I thought “wow, this is so cool. What a great idea! It’s so simple, though. Why didn’t I think of that?”


Steve Strauss:            So, obviously you’re a crafty person.


Daria Knowles:          Yeah, I am.


Steve Strauss:          You’ve done that for fun at home, things like that.


Daria Knowles:          Yep, yep. I do have an art history background and growing up on the East Coast my father would take me to the museums and the MET all the time. He was definitely a lover of the arts. And, I do think that that was sort of influential. So, as I saw this, I’m thinking “how could I play with this?” And so, I sort of experimented and created this velvet pumpkin and got a real pumpkin stem. And you know, “wow this is great, I love it, it’s so fun” and my friends thought they were the coolest thing. So, I just started making them and doing little home shows by collecting stems that were on the ground in October after the majority of the pumpkins had been collected. And so there was the first pumpkin, really. And once I moved to Oregon, some of my friends here said, “you should put them in a store.” I’m thinking, really? And, so I did, and then I went to one little teeny, tiny farm and the owner said “you should really take those to R Blooms” and I’m thinking what’s R Blooms? You know, I’ve been here a year. And so, I did, and I brought in a little book and a couple samples and said, “oh, I have these pumpkins, it’s just a little home thing,” but I was told maybe you might like them. And they loved them. Richard Bloom came to the house, and at the time, I had pumpkins all over the table because they were in one store and they said “these pumpkins are the hottest thing ever.”


Steve Strauss:            So, I got to say, I was telling you this off the air, my wife is an interior designer and she loves your product. And if people want to know what we’re talking about, because it’s a little hard to imagine it if you haven’t seen it. You should go to Daria’s website which is, which is, and then you can see a picture of her incredible designs. Because they’re really, very beautiful. They’re velvet pumpkins, and corn, and cashmere and different products like that. And so, it’s really evolved. So, you start out with one store…


Daria Knowles:          One store…


Steve Strauss:            And I wonder because a lot of people might see a pumpkin in an art store, and maybe think “oh, that’s a beautiful pumpkin” and maybe even make one at home. But, what was it that compelled you to try and turn that into a business?


Daria Knowles:          Well, initially it was there was no intention to start a business. It was really, like I said, just a little pocket money for a stay-at-home mom. And at the time it was 2008, the market was horrific, but I was doing these little home shows and people loved them and then I dabbled in a couple little stores, and Richard picked it up, and he said…


Steve Strauss:          And Richard is…


Daria Knowles:          Richard from Richard Bloom’s…


Steve Strauss:          Ah, okay.


Daria Knowles:          And, he said “you have done it! This is couture tabletop.” And I thought, “okay… You’re kidding me!” But, he took them to Atlanta, which is the premiere gift and home furnishings show. At the time, he was the creative director for an ornament line, and just wanted the pumpkins as display, and said “I just want them as a backdrop.”  Well, once he brought them there and buyers across the country saw them, they were literally running up to the showroom – “where do I get these pumpkins?” And, he calls me and says, “I think we’re going to have to take some orders on these pumpkins, and he came home with 12,000 dollars in orders.


Steve Strauss:          That’s the kind of story you love to hear.


Daria Knowles:          Crazy.


Steve Strauss:          Crazy great, right? How old were your kids at the time?


Daria Knowles:          My son was probably six, and my daughter was eleven.


Steve Strauss:          So, you were a stay-at-home mom at that time?


Daria Knowles:          Yeah, stay-at-home. Just moved here, had been here for about a year. Met some other mommies at school that loved the pumpkins and had said “oh I’d love to go in the field and get stems with you” and I’m thinking, okay… Well as soon as he came back in January with 12,000 dollars in orders, I immediately called my friends and said, “I need help.” And so, it started in the kitchen, I had one other gal that helped me. And once I fulfilled orders for the following fall, then more stores started seeing them as they travelled across the United States. And started seeing… “oh I saw these in Chicago, I saw these in Arizona…” and they started calling me, and the business grew. And I had 13 women in my kitchen, you could not walk through the house.


Steve Strauss:            So, let’s get to that in a second, the name of the show is Post Some Love, and what I’d like to do is read one of the online reviews we found about your business. And have you comment and tell us what you think about it. “Your pumpkins are the perfect addition to any fall décor, mine is a tiny one but I love it. I have seen many knock-offs but none display the careful craftsmanship as yours.”  And I’ve seen your pumpkins as well, and your other products, they’re really beautifully made and very well done. Did it take a long time to perfect what you were doing, at the start?


Daria Knowles:          Yes, it really did. I think that they’ve definitely evolved. When we first started making them, it was “we have to make it look seamless. We have to make it look natural. We have to make it look like that pumpkin stem is really truly growing out of the velvet. And I think that it took off so ferociously because it sort of tricks the mind. We’ve married this very high-end, luxury silk velvet with a natural creation. Mother earth, you know this mother nature has its natural stem and it’s beautiful in its own right, and you pair them and it sort of tricks the eye. And everybody loves pumpkins. I think there’s a sensibility about pumpkins that takes people back to their childhood. Every October when they go to that pumpkin field, and they see pumpkins, and it’s just a joyful time.


Steve Strauss:            Well, let me read another review then. Apropos of that. “Love Hot Skwash pumpkins, I have an addiction to them year-round.”

                    That’s exactly what you’re saying, right?


Daria Knowles:          Yeah, there’s something about pumpkins, in general. So, I think that we’re fortunate to have found that niche. The pumpkin then, we were waiting to see what was left over from the pumpkin fields to get stems. Then we realized, people are really falling in love with these stems! How do we get great stems? So, we had to sort of evolve and talk to our farmers and decide, well can you grow just the right varieties for certain stems and they absolutely thought we were crazy! You know, they were just - “what do you want?”


Steve Strauss:            So, how did you go… I’m always interested in how someone scales a business. You weren’t an entrepreneur, obviously in your heart you’re an entrepreneur, but at that time you were learning about business. So, Richard Bloom came back from his show with 12,000 orders… 12,000 dollars in orders or 12,000 orders?


Daria Knowles:          12,000 dollars in orders.


Steve Strauss:            And what did you do? How did you decide to scale your business at that point?


Daria Knowles:          Well, first it was- what do we name it?


Steve Strauss:            You weren’t even at that place yet?


Daria Knowles:          We were just pumpkins by Daria. And so, people kept saying, “these pumpkins are so hot, they’re so hot.” And I’m thinking, ooh hot squash, that’s very catchy. That was easy, and my husband is really into computers and web, and so he’s like we can make a little website so people can look at the product. We had no intention of selling direct we were just going to be with stores. So I was learning as I was going but my gut told me, you want to make sure you’re focusing on this niche market. And Richard was incredibly helpful in encouraging me to stay high end. It’s a very luxurious looking product, focus on marketing to luxury stores… “You should do Atlanta.” So, I thought okay, I gotta go find velvet. Then it was sourcing velvet wholesale, and what are we filling it with? And how do we get the raw materials wholesale? And where do we get our tags? Where do we get the little gun that puts the label...? I mean, everything! It’s comical. I used to drive my minivan down to Grand and Benedicts to fill it with bags of peanuts and drive it home!


Steve Strauss:            So, you started out as small as you can start, part time, at home.


Daria Knowles:          Small as you can. I would go and pick up stems from local farms, I used to bring them home and I used to dry them in the oven, and the whole house would smell like manure. And the kids – “what are you making mom?” And it was ridiculous!


Steve Strauss:            Right. Daria, one of the things I really like about your business is that there’s a sense of community about it. From the beginning, you hired other moms and they came to work with and for you. Why don’t you tell me about that?


Daria Knowles:          That is true. Once Richard Bloom took them to Atlanta and came back with some orders we realized that, okay, this could potentially grow. We’re not even trying, and we have to ship out of state now. So, I literally drove up to the Safeway and saw my girlfriend Karen. She’s selling Girl Scout cookies with her daughter, and I roll down the window, and I’m like “Karen! How much do you love the pumpkins?” And she says “what’s going on?” And I said well, I need you to come to my house on Monday. And so, she came, and so my other good friend Lanie, and I had Karen, and Karen’s like “well, why don’t we call Shannon,” like “okay.” And so, then we get more orders, well we need a shipper, and then we need somebody to sign and tag, the more we tried to present it as this professional, beautiful, quality product we realized- “oh well we need somebody to help us with this, and we need someone to help us with this.” I mean, we used to just call it the stitch and bitch. I mean, we were having so much fun. I mean, they didn’t even care, it wasn’t work. The kids would get on the bus at 7:30 in the morning, and the moms would come to the house at 2:30/3 o’clock. The bus driver would literally drop off 10, 12 kids at my house. And the foyer was the shipping. They’d drop off their backpacks, the shoes, I have two huge 150-pound Mastiffs. The peanuts are falling over, and Lisa who is doing the shipping is thinking – “something’s gotta give here.” So, the kids would run in, have their snacks, go out, jump on the trampoline, and the moms would work until 4:30/5 o’clock, go home, and I would say maybe 4 or 5 of them, they’d come back at night 7:30/8 o’clock, and we’d be making pumpkins until 11 o’clock… We’d drink wine and watch movies!


Steve Strauss:            How fun was that, right? Well, you know, there’s lots of ways to run a small business. That’s how you should run a small business.


Daria Knowles:          Well, you know that was the start!


Steve Strauss:            And you know, people could be in your situation and hire people and have a very assembly line kind of thing, but you clearly went in the complete opposite direction to create a community that was invested in you, and your success, and in the product’s success, right?


Daria Knowles:          I didn’t realize how important that was early on. I just knew, I don’t know anybody. I have a few friends, and they know people. And when we were having so much fun doing it, and people were buying it and loving it, we soon realized this recipe seems to be important. And so-and-so’s husband is out of work, and it’d be great if she could make a little cash. And I had like 3 or 4 women in the neighborhood that were just so grateful to have any money coming in. So that became also a strong reason, so I had women within a 1 mile radius some of them walked, some of them drove. The kids came, they’d help sort pumpkins. It became a lot of fun for the whole community of West Lynn. We expanded into the garage, and neighbors thought – “what are they doing in there?” But it was fun, and we loved that. We loved being all part of something that was taking off. It felt special, and they all loved being part of that.


Steve Strauss:            Well, we do call this the Post Some Love podcast, and clearly when you love something so much, people get it.


Daria Knowles:            I think positivity spreads, it’s infectious. I think you put the positive out there and if it’s natural and you love it, other people will too. It’s worked for us.


Steve Strauss:            Fantastic. One of the things that I love you did from the start and it was very smart on your part is to know what you’re doing, and who your trying to sell it to. And creating a brand around that. Because one thing I always say is a great brand is very specific, and doesn’t attract everybody, it may even turn some people off, it may not be their thing. Someone may not want high-end beautiful, luxury pumpkins for their home because they have a different kind of home. But for the people who it does attract, what you’ve done is hit that right on the head.


Daria Knowles:            I think that Richard definitely encouraged me, but there was a common sense about that point, that early on I saw what types of stores were attracted to it. And I saw between the first time Richard brought it and the first time we did the show in Atlanta there were knock-offs. And I thought ooh, okay, that’s flattering but that’s maybe not a great thing. They’re going to saturate my idea, we have to be the Rolls Royce of this category. So, we tried to get into the premier stores Gump’s, Niemen Marcus, and we were successful very early on, getting into those stores. So, we secured that we’re the Rolls Royce of this category.


Steve Strauss:            Fantastic, let’s read another review then. “Hot Skwash is the original. I’ve seen others try and copy this amazing creativity, and they fall short every time I see one. I’m needing one more for my collection, the feathers are amazing”  So, have knock-offs been an issue for you in your business?


Daria Knowles:            Yes and no. Yes, it’s happened, nobody really is in love with the process. They’re creating a commodity. And I don’t want it to be a commodity. I really am catering to people who love it. And like I said, I didn’t start a business to support my family. I started this business and when that I realized I’m employing people in 2008 when their husbands can’t get work and stores are actually spending money on my product and they’re up 20%. I’m feeling like this is more about them than it is about me making money. And for them to continue to be successful, we have to care about this product.


Steve Strauss:            I think that’s true for all great small businesses, that’s one thing I have seen. Is, look we all like to make money, making money is great. But making money for the great small business it’s a goal, but certainly isn’t usually the main goal. It’s about creating something your passionate about, or making a difference, those are the things it sounds like have been important to you.


Daria Knowles:            I’ve been fortunate enough to let that be what drives me. As soon I saw somebody else trying to create a crappy pumpkin with velveteen and a plastic stem. I thought, okay, well we really got to elevate it. We have to continue to find ways to have the most spectacular stems. Richard said oh, you have to sign them in gold, everyone has to be signed. Then I came out with Swarovski crystal embellished pumpkins when we started selling to Niemen Marcus, and then we had fully beaded pumpkins that were all hand beaded, and then I started doing one of a kind pumpkins with designer Valentino and Pucci.


Steve Strauss:            So how big is your business now? I mentioned in the intro that you have a 9000-square foot facility.


Daria Knowles:            Nine thousand square foot facility.


Steve Strauss:            How many people do you employ?


Daria Knowles:            We have anywhere from 20 to 25 depending on the time of the year.


Steve Strauss:            And mostly it’s other moms, is that right?


Daria Knowles:            They are other moms, now they are working moms! But, I still have three people that are original moms that started in the house with me. And then I have other people, part time / full time sewers, people who just do crystals, my shipping department, it’s a big learning curve.


Steve Strauss:            So, I’m speaking with Daria Knowles of Hot Skwash by Daria and you mentioned the learning curve, what have been the challenges for you along the way?


Daria Knowles:            I think every time we grow, and take on something new. We have to go through the process of- is this going to work? If we’re going to invest in the labor in putting Swarovski crystal on this, how do we get them on there? How long should it take? What are the right tools? What is the right glue, if you will. How much should it cost me to make this, how am I going to price this? Oh, I love making that, but it takes 2 hours to make it.


Steve Strauss:            Right, so is it trial and error mostly?


Daria Knowles:            A lot of trial and error, shipping is huge especially when you’re dealing with cooperates, they have all these specifications and compliances and the first time I had a compliance manual that’s 36 pages, I’m thinking do I need a lawyer?  I’m still just that stay at home mom, but you get savvy fast.


Steve Strauss:            So, one of the things that’s very interesting about businesses is often people will start a business because they’re passionate about something, so they find a pumpkin that they love and they decide to turn it into a business. That part of your business, no one can teach you that. How to make this beautiful pumpkin in front of me right now is something you’ve learned and perfected. But there’s so many other things that go into running a business that allow you to make and sell your pumpkins. And that is the hiring, the firing, labor, insurance, taxes, marketing. Did you bring in help, did you hire experts, did you figure it out, what did you do?


Daria Knowles:            I do think that there’s some common sense that is innate to an entrepreneur. We didn’t pay rent in the house, but when we started and we had to hire and fire. It was natural. I had all these other women who had no business background, I’m like well we need to have a team that’s cohesive and has to work well together. And that became apparent very quickly and we had created a community within Hot Skwash that we loved so much working together, that we were all willing to work harder at finding out the answers. Because we wanted to continue this team and the success. So with shipping we had FedEx come in and say “you need to tell us the best way”, and once they saw how much we were shipping then they agreed to negotiate rates every year. And so, you learn as you go for sure. As far as doing ads and what not, I think for me it’s natural. When I am paging through, I stop at something that’s eye catching. And I always had this idea that if you want people to think your something special, you better present yourself as something special. So, we went right in and did a full-page ad,


Steve Strauss:            Where did you do that?


Daria Knowles:            In any of the market magazines, pre-show magazines. Like, we’re going to do a full page.


Steve Strauss:            So, you just went for it?


Daria Knowles:            Yeah, you know as long as it looks good, they’ll stop and read it, they’ll read it if there stopped visually. And so that was sort of common sense to me, and people came in. We learned early on that our product and our print got people to come to see us. They had never seen anything like it before I think it was a combination of its unique home décor piece, and just showing it. Like this is what we make, not a lot of words, just - Hot Skwash and come see us here - and that was enough. I think if you present it in a luxurious way, and have these great ads then people are going to come and that worked for us. We were fortunate enough to learn that. Then we would do some trade magazines, a little bit, and then I got on Instagram and really started learning like people are really responding to these images.


Steve Strauss:            Sounds to me, like the keys of your success is, if I can distill it a little bit, is One, mentorship is really important to you, right?


Daria Knowles:            Yes, staying on track, for sure.


Steve Strauss:            Second, teamwork, you’ve created a great team. And third, there’s this passionate word of mouth about your business. Is that accurate?


Daria Knowles:            Yeah, I think that deciding early on who do you want to be, who do you want to cater to, who is your customer, what’s your demographic. That was very, very important early on. If we want to maintain that demographic, and we want to cater to that niche market, we have to create this exceptional niche product: very handmade, incredible quality, we have to keep elevating it, we have to keep coming out with new things, people love the brand for the customer service and for the quality. So, whatever we bring them, has to possess those same handmade quality. And they trust the brand. We had a choice early on, the same year that we picked up Niemen Marcus, we were approached by another big name that had many, many stores but a totally different demographic, it could’ve been incredibly lucrative. We turned them down.


Steve Strauss:            Because…?


Daria Knowles:            It would’ve been one and done, had we thrown the seat up, then it would’ve been good for maybe one or two seasons. Then we would’ve lost our high-end market entirely.


Steve Strauss:            Well you clearly know who your market is, and who you want to market to. And people, in that market, really respond to your business. In fact, let me ask you about some of the reviews you’ve gotten, I’ve been reading a couple of these reviews, here’s one more. In fact, how about have you read it.


Daria Knowles:            “Just when I think that Daria simply can’t top what she’s done already, she comes up with a stunning creation unlike anything before it, absolutely amazing”


Steve Strauss:            So, right, is that kind of what you get from people?


Daria Knowles:            I do, and I think that at a certain point once we did the pumpkins and were in Neman’s and Gump’s it’s like okay, well what’s next? The fear of, what if I can’t deliver something new? It encourages me to never just sit idly and assume that, oh well this should be good for three years, I always wanted to bring something new. And I think it has to be of that level of oh wow.


Steve Strauss:            To the point that people in fact will write reviews about your business online, how important are reviews for your business?


Daria Knowles:            I think that is what keeps me going.


Steve Strauss:            And why is that?


Daria Knowles:            I am doing this for them. When they don’t love it anymore, I’m not doing it anymore. Because my job is… I love employing people and I love creating that community for everyone, but the morale and the bigger reason if they’re not loving it anymore, then I’m just a commodity at that point. It’s not special.


Steve Strauss:            The fact that people not only buy it, and like it, and put it in their home, but actually go online and share their experience with others, is kind of amazing. Right? This idea of reviews… You know I mentioned to you, my dad was an entrepreneur he started off with one carpet store and he grew it to 14, and then at the end of his career he was back to one giant carpet warehouse. He was marketing wizard, my dad, really, very successful, and at the end of his career when he had one giant carpet warehouse, his marketing had boiled down to one thing. He had a big banner it said “our word of mouth advertising starts with you”.


Daria Knowles:            It’s true!


Steve Strauss:            And word of mouth we all know is the most important kind of advertising, but these days it takes a different form than when my dad was an entrepreneur. You know, it shows up as online reviews, shares, and things like that. You clearly get that from your business you’re your clientele.


Daria Knowles:            We do, and that was a huge learning curve for me, because I can’t even do a word document. I have the compute skills of someone who’s never seen a computer. I mean it’s terrible! For my husband, this is his world. For me getting on Instagram and Facebook, and doing anything online was a little, ehhhh… But once I saw I post a picture on Instagram and I get likes, and people love it and they share it. Or they’ll send me emails – “I bought your pumpkin.” And I really started to understand how unique and how special it is. And after 10 years doing one-of-a-kind and having people call me to do custom one-of-a-kinds, it’s special. I know this is why I’m doing it, these people love it, and if my market shrinks, that’s fine, I’m fine with that. Because I really, I don’t want to sell out. I don’t want to manufacture in China and just stick a stem on it.


Steve Strauss:            You won’t get word of mouth, you won’t get reviews, you won’t get love, those things, right? If you just did it the other way.


Daria Knowles:            It’s just a thing. And I love creating. I think that that’s the selfish part of it, I love creating, what can I make out of this? I’ll go to a trade show and see a jeweler. There’s this jeweler Tzuri Gueta from Paris and he does silicone and silk jewelry. And I saw it in New York, and I thought “that is the coolest thing! How can I put that on my pumpkin? And I had this beautiful coral, Valentino fabric, and this Tzuri Gueta almost sculpture coral, and [00:30:00] I put it on top of it, and it’s magnificent! And I look up Tzuri Gueta and he’s prolific and Paris and works with Gaultier and all the high fashion designers, and I’m wow! This is so exciting! Or I’ll find fascinators from Germany that I put on the pumpkins, and they’re like these giant feather hats, and people respond. And I learned, you have to create that drama. The more creative you can be, people want to be surprised when they go to trade shows. I want people to come to my booth in Atlanta just to see it, even if they don’t buy pumpkins. If that makes them happy, then I’m happy!


Steve Strauss:            Awesome. Well Daria, we’re just about out of time. If people want to know more about your creations, see them, get them, where might they go find you and them?


Daria Knowles:            Nationally, well, you can always go online at Gump’s, Love Feast, R Blooms,, small, high-end boutiques across the country.


Steve Strauss:            And at


Daria Knowles:  !


Steve Strauss:            Great. And Daria Knowles thank you for being with us today.


Daria Knowles:            Thank you for having me!


Steve Strauss:            And congratulations on all your success.


Daria Knowles:            Thank you!


Steve Strauss:            Bank of America is committed to helping small business owners achieve lasting growth. And is now asking everyone for their support helping small businesses grow and asking them to Post Some Love. We know that positive online reviews help drive small business success. So, we’re encouraging everyone to do just that. Choose your favorite small business, and write a positive online review. Bank of America does not endorse or guarantee the perspectives, the advice, or the products or services sold by any business referenced within this podcast. Copyright 2018. Bank of America Corporation.

Women are gaining personal and financial power, yet the income and savings challenges they face are real, under-represented and often misunderstood.


A new study by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave outlines the financial challenges women will face throughout their lifetimes and provides real solutions for funding the present and future. The study offers key insights built on the following observations:


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The wealth gap is the greatest challenge we’re not talking about: What exactly is the wealth gap? It’s defined as the difference between women’s and men’s total sum of all sources of financial resources, including earnings, investments, retirement savings and additional assets such as property. Today, the average single woman has three times less wealth than the average single man. The Merrill Lynch study provides key learnings about how this is possible and what women can do to elevate their financial standing.


Women’s No. 1 financial regret: 41 percent of women report that their biggest financial regret is not investing more. Investing provides the opportunity for women to cultivate their wealth in ways beyond a paycheck. According to the study, 59 percent of women report that they are not doing a good job using investing to pursue their financial goals. Women say that not having the knowledge to invest is their number one barrier (60 percent) followed by not having the confidence to do so (34 percent).


Women need to plan for a 100+ year life. Preparing for a long life requires understanding the cost of retirement, building a plan to meet key savings goals and achieving those goals. The typical retirement costs $738,000, yet only 9% of American women have $300,000 or more saved. On average, women live five years longer than men. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that 77 percent of people who are widowed are women and that by age 85, women outnumber men two to one. According to the study and 81 percent of centenarians are women.


The pay gap accumulates over the course of a woman’s lifetime. When a woman reaches retirement age, she may have earned a cumulative $1,055,000 less than a man who has stayed continuously in the workforce. The study notes that for every $1 a man makes, a woman in a similar position earns 82 cents, with women of color facing even greater disparities.  Sadly, these numbers do not demonstrate how the pay gap accumulates and compounds over the course of a lifetime – especially when earnings are invested. Work disruptions and interruptions – often triggered by the need to care for children, parents and spouses – greatly affect a woman’s potential earnings over her lifetime.


Read more insights and learn about important methods to address financial challenges in the full report: Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line

Glaze Fire Interview PodcastThis week on the Post Some Love podcast, Steve Strauss interviews Mary Loveless of Glaze Fire, a paint-your-own pottery studio bringing creativity to Los Feliz. Listen to her story and the importance of positive online reviews.


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Post Some Love: Glaze Fire Podcast Transcript


Steve Strauss:            When you get a review that is less than stellar, does it make you contact the person?


Mary Loveless:            I’ve only gotten three.

Steve  Strauss:            You've only gotten three. Well that says a lot about you.


Mary Loveless:            And I can like recite verbatim all of them to you probably right now.


Steve Strauss:            So, obviously, your reviews are important to your business.


Mary Loveless:            Of course.



Steve Strauss:            Hi, I'm Steve Strauss, U.S.A. Today's senior small business columnist and author of the Small Business Bible and you're listening to the “Post Some Love” series on the Bank of America's small business podcast.  This is the series where we speak with small business owners about their journey and share some of their great customer reviews. I am delighted to welcome to the show Mary Loveless, co-owner of Glaze Fire to the “Post Some Love” series. Glaze Fire is a paint-your-own pottery studio created by cousins Mary and Sara Loveless.  Now nearing its third year in business, Glaze Fire is infusing creativity and individuality into their Los Feliz community in Los Angeles. They play host to countless birthday parties, baby showers, girls’ night out, that kind of thing, but also to families and first dates and celebrities as well as, these days, a younger crowd looking for a creative release. This is an artistic boutique and, as evidenced by their online reviews, which we will get to and share some today, the studio and the business seems to be as hot as their kiln.  So, Mary welcome to the show.  Great to have you.


Mary Loveless:            Thank you.  Thank you so much.


Steve Strauss:            So, why don't we started beginning?  How did you get started?  How did you decide to start this business and what's your background such that, you know, this is what you wanted to do?



Mary Loveless:            I went to art school.  So, business kind of is not part of the curriculum. I did take one course called entrepreneurship and I, at the time, was like, this won't apply to me.  I won’t need this. 


Steve Strauss:            Famous last words, right?


Mary Loveless:            Exactly.  So, like most Los Angeles people, I kind of did a little of this, a little of that all in an artistic kind of realm, you know, drawing menus on chalkboards fancy restaurants calligraphy on invitations, just random things, art instruction for children was a big part of that and, just over time, got tired of hustling and hoping I sold a painting every month and, instead, needed something a little more steady.  So, as far as small businesses go, this one is at least still in my pocket. We're still doing art, yeah.


Steve Strauss:            Do you have an entrepreneurial background at all?  Does it run in the family?  Did your parents do it or not?


Mary Loveless:            Yes, in college too, I mean, my first kind of money making schemes were art instruction for kids’ camps and, you know, kind of babysitting on the next level and I did that in college and would support my work-study with that kind of work and my dad left his lucrative, steady job and started his own firm, which was a risk, when we were young and I remember it being like a ‘hope it works’ kind of thing but, yeah, I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Steve Strauss:            Mary, I'm wondering if you could tell us about how you teamed up with your cousin and what each of you brings to the partnership and to the business.


Mary Loveless:            So, Sara was kind of a Hail Mary pass for me.  My original business partner in this enterprise chickened out once it looked like it was all going to happen and left me in Limbo and I called Sara and was like, hey, this is really crazy but, if you're not doing anything, want to move to Los Angeles and start a business, and she was like, I'll be there in three weeks. So, and then she came in like slept on my couch for six months and we figured this out.


Steve Strauss:            So, you're the artist. You have an art background.


Mary Loveless:            Exactly.


Steve Strauss:            What is Sara’s background?


Mary Loveless:            She is like a professional organizer, actually and literally, I mean like literally.  She also has a closet organizing business called The Tidy Project and she helps people with like severe hoarding issues also.  So she's a very, not only can she organize your things, she can help you organize your thoughts.  She's a very level-headed, rational, very well-thought-through, whereas I make a snap decision and I'm not rethinking it.  It's done and so that was one of the perks of being from the large Loveless family home that you can call people you trust and they'll show up.


Steve Strauss:            Well, and that's fantastic.  One thing I know about a great business and a great partnership is: each part of the team fills in the gaps of the other and it turned out, in your case, as you said, serendipitous that you have one person that has the art background, one person who has the organizing background.  I’m sure she can do some of the art and you can do some of the organizing but, to have different people who can do different things and bring it, makes the whole a whole lot stronger, I think.


Mary Loveless:            Yeah, we're both each the firstborn of our families and our dads are Irish twins in birth order and also in looks and kind of personalities.  So we're very similar.  I mean, she got to L.A. and we were driving I was like, okay, I'm going to drive you over to Vermont and Hillhurst and we’re just going to walk up and down.  Our store has to be somewhere on these two streets and she was driving us over and she got in the right lane right when it was allowed for extra non-traffic and she started zipping through L.A. and I was like, yes, this is going to work. Like, she's just like me.  She’s type A.  I don't even have to, it's just how we were raised and that compatibility can't have been taught except for that we were raised together, essentially.


Steve Strauss:            Oh, that’s fantastic.  So what brought you to what obviously is the pottery studio and working with your cousin? How did you actually come up with this idea and then place it where you placed it in Los Feliz?



Mary Loveless:            The Los Feliz location is a basic business school exercise.  We drew a five mile radius map around all of our competition and Los Feliz was the only big hole in Los Angeles.


Steve Strauss:            Very smart, uh-huh.


Mary Loveless:            So that kind of sorted itself out.  It didn't hurt that it happens to be in a really hip, fun location. The community respects and wants to support independent mom and pops.  So that was just serendipitous.  That was more just like a math chart. I mean, even in my business plan, when I was trying to get financing, that was like a big color printout with all the circles. So that was its own thing but, once figuring that out, it then took six or seven months of walking the streets every day before we found our actual brick and mortar location.


Steve Strauss:            And what was it about a pottery studio that made you, you know, there's all sorts of things people can do with their art and that's kind of a unique and different one?


Mary Loveless:            Well, this one is just facilitating other people to create art. We do sell custom paintings and you can commission us to make something personalized for a gift but, mostly, it's people who are painting their own projects.  So, in that sense, it's more just, you know, people have more of a connection to something that they made, obviously, than something that they're just picking up off the shelf to purchase.


Steve Strauss:            Well, I mean, it's funny.  Anyone who's done it, I've done it, knows what a fun experience it can be and I'm sure that it doesn't hurt that Los Feliz is a real family-oriented community these days, right.  In fact, here, one of the things we do in this podcast is we share some love, right, some of the reviews and things you got online.  So I’m going to read a couple of these to you throughout the interview and just get your comments.  Let me read one that we found. ‘What a fun place!  They definitely understand how to create a warm and inviting environment.  My daughter and I had a great time painting and talking it would be the perfect place for a painting party.  These kind of small businesses make the world a better place.’ 

Kind of nice to hear that kind of thing, right?


Mary Loveless:            It is. It really is, especially because this is a very community-oriented business.  We are there all the time.  It's a labor-intensive business too.  The kiln has to be loaded, unloaded.  The pieces have to be dipped in the glaze and then prepped for the kiln.  Not only do we hope we give each person love but each, piece pottery piece gets handled by our staff, like multiple times.  We appreciate that because it is such enmeshed, engrossed, you know, I guess the non-millennial remote.  It's the opposite of the remote commute job.


Steve Strauss:            Right.  Interested in something you just said about it's a very community based-business. Was that the plan from the start and how do you nurture and foster community?


Mary Loveless:            I don't know that it was the plan but it definitely was an aim.  Part of our financing is through the Small Business Administration and our loan is called the Community Advantage Loan.  So, obviously, we geared and we knew that this would be part of enriching the community in which we're in.  It's a meeting place.  It’s a, just the fact that we have our doors open seven days a week for twelve hours a day means that there's always a smiling, friendly face for you to go and talk about art with in the neighborhood and we do have, this neighborhood is full of fun local characters.  I sometimes feel like I'm in The Truman Show.  You know, like people walking their dogs.  They, like, stop.  I’m like, hey, Bob, how's the kids, you know.  It's really great.


Steve Strauss:            Now, that’s community.  That’s awesome.


Mary Loveless:            Yeah, exactly.  I mean, we do have a little water bowl out in front.  The dogs all stop and, yeah. It's, I even have friends who are like, they don't really, necessarily make plans with me.  They just know I'm going to be at the shop and come in.


Steve Strauss:            Well, and that can really be unique in Los Angeles.  I grew up in Southern California and, a lot of times, people come there who weren't from there and they don't feel a sense of community. They don't feel grounded but most Los Feliz is a smaller little subsection of Los Angeles and.

Mary Loveless:            Right, it’s a walking neighborhood.


Steve Strauss:            Right, it's a walking neighborhood and the fact that you created a sense of community is unique.  That's got to be a nice selling point for your business.


Mary Loveless:            The walking neighborhood thing is so different from most neighborhoods and L.A.  I can walk to work.  I can walk to two movie theaters.  I can walk to three grocery stores.  It's really unusual for most of L.A.


Steve Strauss:            Now, you're in business for almost three years, is that accurate?


Mary Loveless:            That is accurate, September, 2015 we opened.


Steve Strauss:            Congratulations.  That's no small feat, right?


Mary Loveless:            It’s not, no. Thank you.


Steve Strauss:            What have been the challenges along the way for you, would you say?


Mary Loveless:            Just like with every business, we've made mistakes.  It took us maybe seven or eight months before we found the location and, during that time, we kind of explored other avenues within the same kind of umbrella of ways we could make it work without a brick and mortar location and we made some big purchases that probably were not necessary, I would.  If I could like go back and we had bought like a fancy camera, thinking we were going to need this for our Instagram and for photographing parties and then an iPhone 6 has a camera that's as fancy as.  Anyways, so there's been some money that we've spent but I wish we hadn’t but you live and you learn.


Steve Strauss:            You know, I always counsel small businesses that you're going to make a mistake.  You're going to make several mistakes.  It's life. It's business.  That is what happens.  The key is to really try and avoid those killer expensive mistakes and it sounds like you learned your lesson.  We've all done that.  You spend too much here or there or on-ad or whatever the case may be but you're here to tell the tale, right?



Mary Loveless:            Yes, for now.


Steve Strauss:            Let me read another one of your reviews. ‘What a fun activity this was!  My wife and I went here for our fifth wedding anniversary.  I picked it because we've done paint night before and I figured a more creative, fun outlet would be really fun for us.  The staff was so kind and informative, especially to us non-sculptors.’ So that's got to be a big part of it too, that you're teaching people, maybe who’re non-artists how to have fun with the process.


Mary Loveless:            Exactly.  The thing that is really nice, though, we have 400, at any given time, choices of pottery to choose from and it's anything from just a blank, circle plate to a plate that's printed like a sea turtle with little bitty squares of the shells.  So the difference between those, I would say, is a blank plate is sometimes harder. You have the whole realm of what could happen on this plate.  Whereas, the sea turtle, it's more like a paint by numbers paint night kind of experience where you're really just relaxing and filling in with the paintbrush. So we see the whole gamut of that skill level and can accommodate for anything.  I just posted to our Instagram today a painting of an octopus that is incredible.  I can't do anything like that.  It's really fun, also, for me to be able to see what comes out of the kiln but, alternatively, you could pick a Tiki mug and just paint it and like, oh, I just picked the eye color and I picked that mouth color and I.  So it's also BYOB.  So it's fun for the whole level of adults, I would say, professionals too, just chilling.


Steve Strauss:            You are listening to the Post Some Love series on the Bank of America podcast. I'm Steve Strauss and I am speaking with Mary Loveless, the co-owner of Glaze Fire in Los Angeles.  Mary, it sounds to me like you get all sorts of different people in your studio and that you maybe focus your marketing and your branding and your events, even, to different communities.  So, you bring in the kids and the families, you bring in the dates, you bring in, maybe even corporate events.  Is that accurate?


Mary Loveless:            Yes, very much so.


Steve Strauss:            Tell us about that a little bit.


Mary Loveless:            Well, I mean, when we first opened, I thought it would be primarily kids and families and we really geared towards that but just the walk-in customers looked more like me and Sara, just young adults looking for something a little more chill and something where they could connect to their friends, learn more about their friends than playing darts at the bar.  We haven't really done, in any really targeted way, traditional marketing.  I guess it's all been just the social media, the people posting reviews, the.  It's a brave new world.  I, mean we post in the Los Feliz Ledger, which is our local paper.  That's like, you know, I think they're like a super tiny, just in print like around Los Feliz.  I, yeah.  The target, that's another thing that's just been serendipitous.  We haven't really done much targeted.  We've done a couple of the post office mailers where we do the whole zip code but I think that's it.


Steve Strauss:            Well, let me read one more of those reviews that you just mentioned from the Los Feliz Ledger.  ‘We recently did a corporate team building event here and we had a blast.  It was so much fun bonding with colleagues over painting and wine, great selection of pieces and reasonably-priced, really cute atmosphere, and a very helpful staff.’ So, again and again, we keep hearing about how great your staff is and this idea of wine, so that you geared to, obviously, adults as well.


Mary Loveless:            Yes and they're right.  My staff is amazing.  Everyone who's on staff is doing their own really cool art hustle.  Like, Mia is a singer-songwriter.  Allie’s a photographer.  Morgan's a photographer.  Allie’s like a poet and she's doing this really cool eBook animation of her poetry. Becca is a model and also does custom painting and art.  It's everyone who's on staff is very in the community.  So, yes, I guess it's cool when you meet the owner but also I would say like some of my staff members are way cooler than me.  Like, I’m just the shop keep and they’re, like, going to be famous singer-songwriters.


Steve Strauss:            So you look at that.  That's one reason you're really successful: because you're giving everyone their due.


Mary Loveless:            Well, I'm very blessed and also, not only are they talented in what they do, but they're also all of the store samples are painted by them.  So you can see each personality in what they paint.  Like, Katie puts really silly faces on everything and you can go to her website and get her custom ceramics at Like, even if they’re are singing and songwriting is their thing, they're also skilled technicians at painting pottery.  It’s, like, pretty great.


Steve Strauss:            Pretty great.  So you mentioned reviews and I’d like to drill down into that a little bit because that is one of things we really focus on a lot, obviously, on the “Post Some Love” series.  How important are reviews to you?


Mary Loveless:            They’re incredibly important. If I were to get, it's the main course of feedback, I guess.  It's also, you know, a brave new world.  It's, sometimes even, for example, there's some reviews that I get that they're still positive but I'm like, oh, this is something like, oh, we can work on. It's, I mean like, as I'm in this booth right now, I’ve been looking around.  One of our reviews says that it was loud and they're right.  Like, one screaming baby in the store makes it really loud and I don't have the Miss America silence photo booth for them to step into and, even though the review was like, ‘we had a great time, we’re coming back, I can't wait,’ it still gives me anxiety.


Steve Strauss:            I'm wondering how online reviews may affect your offline world.  We've talked quite a bit about reviews and how they're affecting your business.  Los Feliz is a, as you said, small community. It’s a walking community and, for people who are not in Los Feliz, they may not know about your business.  So it seems to me that one of the benefits of getting reviews online is that people, in a more broad sense, can find out about your business. Has that been proven to be true for you?


Mary Loveless:            Yes, definitely, I would say, especially through the other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, that's a little more true.  If, when Bella Thorne posts about painting pottery, obviously, a whole lot more people see it than who are just scrolling through my feed.  So I think the reviews definitely more just corroborate the other exposure.  They're like, what is this, and then they type it and you always kind of like, am I going to go to this place that the celebrity says is cool.  Let's check the Yelp reviews first.  I think it's more just like we've been vetted.


Steve Strauss:              Yeah but celebrity endorsements don't hurt, right?


Mary Loveless:            Of course not.  We don't ask for them.  I mean, we couldn't afford a celebrity post.  That’s insane but that's the other thing where I was saying about how it means so much more that people write these positive reviews or that they post about it without asking because that means they really, genuinely enjoyed the experience and that it meant a lot to them.  It's like the extra above and beyond.  It's really cool.


Steve Strauss:            You know, last I looked, you had 58 Yelp reviews and that's a nice number.  Do you actively seek out reviews? 


Mary Loveless:            No.


Steve Strauss:            Do you look for people to review or is it an organic thing?


Mary Loveless:            No, we don't.  Sara’s sister was one of our first reviews and I even was like, I don't know how I feel about this.  This is a little like it's cheating and I think that's the only one that's not someone that organically came in, which is really incredible because, for me, I've only left like two Yelp reviews on my whole life. One was a five star and one was, you know, I wish it could have been zero stars.  So, for people to actually go home and sit and type and post something means that they had an amazing experience, not just like an okay experience. It means that they like really, really liked it.  So that's cool.


Steve Strauss:             Yeah, I mean, think about that.  The event is over.  They’re home in their home and they think, I've got to share this experience with everybody else.  You know, I mentioned my youth in Southern California. My dad had carpet stores and he once had a giant banner in his carpet store.  It said ‘our word-of-mouth advertising starts with you’, right.  He loved word-of-mouth and, to me, these days word-of-mouth is really word-of-click.  It is online.  It is, whether it's someone forwards your e-newsletter on or they retweet your tweet or they go to your Instagram, they like what you're doing, they like you and Facebook, or give you a review, right.  That is what word-of-mouth is looking like for businesses in today's world, isn’t it?


Mary Loveless:            It is yeah, and, unfortunately, it's almost the first and only course of feedback.  You know, people are more likely to probably leave a review than they are to call me up and be like, hey, I want to tell you how great it was.


Steve Strauss:            Interesting.


Mary Loveless:            You know, isn't that weird?


Steve Strauss:            Yeah it is kind of weird.  When you get a review that's less than stellar, does it make you contact the person?


Mary Loveless:            We’ve only gotten three.


Steve Strauss:              You’ve only gotten three.  Well, that says a lot about you.


Mary Loveless:            And I can, like, recite verbatim all of them to you, probably right now. 


Steve Strauss:            So, obviously reviews are important to your business.


Mary Loveless:            Of course.


Steve Strauss:            Yeah.  When you get a positive review, though, it must feel like it validates all the hard work you've all put into this.


Mary Loveless:            It does, yeah.  It really does and, because, like I said, it's, at least if most people are like me, leaving a review means that the experience was not just great.  It was extra special and you needed to share it.  That's the only time I've ever taken the time to leave a review.  So it does mean a lot.


Steve Strauss:            Well, fantastic.  We've really enjoyed having you with us today, Mary. As I said, we're speaking with Mary Loveless, the co-founder of Glaze Fire in Los Angeles and, if you're ever there and you need an event and you got some time, head on over.  And, Mary, if people want to find you, want to find your store, learn more about how they may come participate in a great time you're having there, where should they go to find that out?


Mary Loveless:            Our website is and, on Instagram, we’re @glazefire.


Steve Strauss:            Well, fantastic.  Thank you.  Congratulations for all your success and thank you so much for being with us today.


Mary Loveless:            Thank you.  Thank you so much.  This was fun.


  Steve Strauss:  Bank of America is committed to helping small business owners achieve lasting growth and is now asking everyone for their support in helping small businesses grow by asking them to Post Some Love.  We know that positive online reviews views help drive small business success.  So we’re encouraging everyone to do just that. Choose your favorite small business and write a positive online review.  Bank of America does not endorse or guarantee the perspectives, the advice, or the products or services sold by any business referenced within this podcast. Copyright 2018, Bank of America Corporation.

When you get the itch to be an entrepreneur, you have options. You can build a business from scratch, you can franchise a business from another brand franchisor or you can buy a business from  another entrepreneur looking to exit.


Getting a business going is the most difficult part of a business’ lifecycle, one that most new businesses do not survive. So, you may follow the path of logic that you minimize that startup risk by buying an established business. While it costs more money up front, you may think that an established business track record, vendor relationships, knowledgeable employees and a customer base will allow you to hit the ground running.


However, as with everything related to business, it’s never that easy. Buying a business can sometimes be equivalent to taking over someone else’s problems.


Here are some things you should know before you engage the purchase of any business.


Entrepreneurs are Greedy! library-1124718_640.jpg

Here’s the thing about people—and entrepreneurs are no exception—they are greedy. Their greed is something that you need to understand when you consider buying a business.


If a business is doing well and the owner expects it will continue to do well, most entrepreneurs won’t want to part with it. I have advised dozens of businesses to sell when they are nearing the peak of their growth rate, knowing that they will get a premium price for selling their business at that time. In almost every case, business owners don’t sell when things are going well. They have visibility on future growth because they think that they will be missing out on more value (this is often referred to as “leaving  money on the table”).


In fact, the greedy entrepreneurs want to wring every penny out of the business, so they convince themselves that if they can wait just another year, their business will be worth more, and then, they will sell it. When the next year comes, they go through the same rationalization.


Ultimately, when they see an upcoming business speed bump (or sometimes, encounter a total catastrophe), they decide to sell. This means that when a business is up for sale, often it is because things are going south, or the writing is on the wall that something negative is on the horizon. So, you should just assume going into your evaluation process that you are going to be inheriting someone else’s issues, whether they be minor or major.


Entrepreneurs are Good Salespeople

When the entrepreneur puts his or her business up for sale, it's his or her job is to sell it and it benefits the entrepreneur to portray the business in the most positive light possible. The owner, and potentially the owner’s advisors, will tell you that the business is only for sale because of some believable reason; retirement, a move or some other story that may even be true in part, but is also part of the marketing spin of the sale process.

If the entrepreneur really loved the business and thought it was going to continue to grow and increase in value, would he or she be walking away entirely – or finding some way to keep a hand in the cookie jar?


See point one about “greed” above.


You Don’t Have Perfect Information

When you meet the current owner, whether the person seems savvy or not, he or she will have one important thing you will never have before purchasing the business – full information.  Information is power, and in relation to this new business, you are at a significant disadvantage in the area of information.


The current owner knows every in and out of the business, from previous issues to current issues to the status of the relationships with the vendors. He or she knows how much of the business is reliant upon him and his or her connections (and how hard it may be for you to take those over once the owner leaves). This individual knows which employees are gems and which, frankly, suck, as well as how much productivity comes from each employee.


The owner knows which employees will probably quit after the business is sold. He or she knows which systems are out of date, which equipment is on its last leg and what his competitors are up to that jeopardizes the company’s very existence.


There are also things the owner probably doesn’t even realize about his or her own business. Whatever the case, these are things that you will not know and are very hard to evaluate through a due diligence and inspection process.


Regardless of what you ask, the owner will put a positive spin on the answers (see the “good salespeople” point above). The owner may not straight up lie, but since his or her objective is to sell the business, creative answers will be given to your tough questions.


Additionally, you are never going to be able to ask all of the questions that you want and get access to every piece of information necessary, as the sale process is usually confidential. While you would love to interview top vendors, customers and employees, you may have limited or no access to them, as such conversations could put these relationships with the company in jeopardy if these important entities believe that there is a sale process going on. So, you will always be at an information handicap when evaluating the business.


You Still Need to Run a Business

Additionally, just because you are buying a business rather than starting one from scratch doesn’t mean that the basic tenets of business don’t apply. They do. You still have to answer to your customers; in this case, you must hope that the customers you “paid for” when buying the business don’t use the sale of the business as an opportunity to leave or renegotiate terms. You still need to be a manager and you have to hope that the employees you “paid for” when buying the business don’t use the sale process as an opportunity to quit, demand a raise or slack off. You still need to be able to multi-task and wear different hats.


You still have costs and expenses. You still have to manage cash flow. You still have to work; businesses don’t run themselves.


Buying a business may let you start at “square two” instead of “square one” in many regards, but don’t think that it guarantees your success. Approach a purchase prudently and be aware of the issues above to better your business success odds.



How to Buy a Business in Three Steps

Tips on How to Finance Your New Business Venture

Questions to Ask Before Buying A Franchise


About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

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: 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.

Happy Father’s Day! As we celebrate the vital role our dads play in our lives, let’s consider the words of wisdom famous entrepreneurs received from their dads:


Steve Jobs: “Paint the back of the fence.”

One thing Apple has been known for (at least while Steve Jobs ran the show) is its stunning design and attention to detail. Apparently, Jobs learned that lesson from his father. According to Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson:


“One day Paul Jobs and Steve were building a fence. And Paul said, ‘You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect.’”



Richard Branson: “Listen more than you talk.”

Branson grew up in a busy household, where his mom constantly concocted and coached countless entrepreneurial endeavors. But, according to Branson in Forbes, his quieter dad created a balance. The lesson, says Sir Richard?


“Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”


Mark Cuban: “Live young every day.”

Said Cuban to an audience at South by Southwest in 2014:


‘My dad is 87 and he says it over and over, ‘Today's the youngest you're ever going to be. You’ve got to live like it. You’ve got to live young every day.’”


Meg Whitman: “Be nice.”

“I'll never forget my father telling me that," Whitman told Fortune Magazine. “I had been mean to someone. He said, ‘There is no point in being mean to anyone at any time. You never know who you’re going to meet later in life. And, by the way, you don’t change anything either by being mean.’”


Martha Stewart: “You can do anything”

“The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father when I was 12 years old,” Stewart explained to Forbes. “He told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose.


“This advice instilled in me a great sense of confidence, and despite the fact that sometimes I was a little nervous, I stepped out and did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I think it really often is up to the parents to help build confidence in their children. It is a very necessary part of growing up.”


Robert Kiyosaki: “Don’t work for money, have money work for you.”

Kiyosaki had a real father, his “poor dad,” and a mentor/father, his “rich dad.” The advice he received from rich dad was so important that Kiyosaki wrote a book about it, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In it, his “rich dad” taught Richard about money, entrepreneurship, and investments.


Bill Gates: “Do things outside of your comfort zone.”

“Well, my dad and my mom were great at encouraging me as a kid to do things that I wasn’t good at, to go out for a lot of different sports like swimming, football, soccer, and I didn’t know why.


“At the time, I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities, and doing things outside my comfort zone, and showing me how to stick with things. It was fantastic, and now some of those activities I cherish. They had to stick to it too because I pushed back a lot, but it was fantastic advice.”


Thanks dads!


Related Content: Bank of America Small Business Podcast


About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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: 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

There once was a village fisherman who happened upon a great fishing spot in a secluded part of the bay where he lived. This was important for him because fishing was how he fed his family and made a living. For many years thereafter, the fisherman prospered; the fishing was great and the fish he caught were plentiful and big. The fisherman and his family were well fed.

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 5.35.58 PM.png


As the years went by however, things at his perfect fishing spot slowly began to change. First, the fish seemed to get tired of the same bait he always used. Sensing this, the fisherman tried something new and changed bait. Soon he returned to some of the same success he had originally found.


But then, even with new bait, things slowed down again. Not only was he catching less fish, but the fish he did catch were smaller. He had caught all the easy-to-catch big fish in this part of the bay. The prosperity he had found initially was becoming more and more difficult to replicate.


Growing ever more concerned, the fisherman finally sought the advice of a village elder. “What should I do?” the fisherman asked. Said the elder, “Things change. Life changes. Fishing spots change. Everything changes. If you continue to do the same thing time and again – if you don’t change – you will miss out. Life and fish will pass you by.”


“But I tried changing bait,” bemoaned the fisherman. “It only worked for a little while. The fish I catch now are so small. I am having a tough time feeding my family.”


“If you want to prosper,” said the elder, “you need to fish for bigger fish.”


The fisherman thought about what first had worked for him in the beginning, all those years ago. He remembered that he had spent quite a bit of time searching for a sweet spot back then. He had found other spots that were fine, but nothing special. He had continued to search. Then he had discovered his magic spot.


Suddenly he knew what he had to do now.


The problem wasn’t the fish or the bait, it was him. The next morning he set out again. But rather than be afraid that he wasn’t going to his usual spot to use his usual methods, he found himself invigorated by the challenge.


What he realized was that bigger fish lay outside the bay, in deeper waters out in the ocean. He knew that if he was going to find and catch those bigger fish, he would need to fish in unfamiliar waters.


So he turned the rudder away from the familiar and headed out to sea. Once there, it took some adjusting. His old fishing tricks didn’t work so well out here. But slowly, day by day, he refined his efforts. He got bigger fishing poles. Stronger line. Better bait.


And before long, he began to catch bigger fish. Much bigger fish. Fishing in deeper waters also meant he would not run out of fish to catch. He soon taught his children how to think bigger and look to catch their own big fish. And they did. In time, they too prospered, and in fact, the entire village prospered.


The moral of the story? You know the moral of the story.


Happy fishing!



About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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: 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

If you are an online retailer who markets to, and does business with, any customers from Europe, I have some news for you: A significant new privacy law came into effect in Europe (as of May 25, 2018) that applies to you. Similarly, if you’re considering expansion into European countries – even if only for e-commerce – you will need to comply.


Passed by the European Union and called the GDPR (for General Data Protection Regulation), the law is intended to protect the privacy rights of all EU citizens.


90651103_s.jpgThere are four areas where the law will protect European customers:


  • They have a “right to be forgotten” in the case of a data breach
  • There is a quick 72-hour reporting period for such a breach
  • There are strong consumer consent protocols that apply, and
  • Fines for breaches and non-compliance are high


Bottom line: If you sell online and have European customers or clients, you must take extra precautions to keep their data secure. The thrust of the law is to protect the privacy of EU citizens, and that means that you, even as an American small business, must adhere. That means if you have a data breach that compromises the privacy of your customers, as happens so often these days, you are subject to the GDPR.


What the law demands specifically is that, should your data be breached, you have three days to inform the country in question of the breach, let them know the citizen(s) involved, and offer the opportunity for the citizen to protect their data by being able to move it somewhere else (the “right to be forgotten.”) Failure to comply on your part can result in hefty fines and even a class-action lawsuit.


There is one caveat, however. According to Forbes, the protections of the GDPR apply only if you specifically have targeted this customer.


“Generic marketing doesn’t count. For example, a Dutch user who Googles and finds an English-language webpage written for U.S. consumers would not be covered under the GDPR. However, if the marketing is in the language of that country and there are references to EU users and customers, then the webpage would be considered targeted marketing and the GDPR will apply.”


What You Should Do


So, what can you do to protect yourself and the privacy rights and data of your European customers? You must take data protection seriously and protect your business from getting hacked.


Here are a few simple ways to do that:


1. Update – or get! – anti-virus software. You should consider anti-virus software to be your first line of defense. Unfortunately, a lot of small businesses neglect this software altogether and are therefore vulnerable to some of the most severe security attacks, like ransomware.


2. Download from reliable sources. One of the bad guys’ top tricks is to make you download infected software from their scam websites. Be careful about where and what you download.


3. Use a secure connection for receiving/transmitting sensitive financial data and orders. Your e-commerce and other vital financial transactions should be done over sites that use either SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security.) You want a URL that begins with “https.” That S stands for “secure.”


So, the bottom line on the GDPR is this, and Forbes puts it best, “U.S. companies, especially those with a Web presence, should be paying attention and changing practices now and not waiting to become a headline two years down the road.”


Related Content:


About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

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: 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

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