Skip navigation
2019

Holly Johnson is excited to get to work in her home studio each morning, surrounded by vibrant colored wool felt and Cheeky Monkey Home decorative pillows and accessories.

 

Holly.jpgIt wasn’t always so cozy. Johnson had a stressful office job, and when “my first son was born I was motivated to find a way to have a creative business where I could work from home and have the flexibility to care for my children,” she said.

 

In 2012, Johnson launched Cheeky Monkey Home on Etsy, an online marketplace for independent sellers of handmade crafts. She started the business for the same reason many people take the entrepreneurial leap: She couldn’t find meaningful and unique items to decorate her kids’ rooms, only mass-produced items.

 

“I was trained as a painter and grew up making my own toys and clothes, and I have always found it more interesting to make something tailored to my needs than to purchase off the rack,” Johnson said. “This hole in the children’s décor market ignited my creative determination to solve the problem and was my inspiration to create keepsake-quality home décor for children’s rooms.”

 

 

Cheeky Monkey Home started to grow, and Johnson  began to sell wholesale in 2017.  Along the way she encountered another challenge:  she needed help, in particular sewers.  That’s when her Sew@Home Program was born.  Now Johnson trains, mentors and employs recently resettled refugee women in the Boston area who seek flexible work from home.

 

Looking to grow her business substantially over the next several years, Johnson entered the 2018 Mastercard Grow Your Biz Contest, in association with Bank of America.  As one of four finalists she traveled to New York City to pitch her business to a panel of judges in hopes of winning the $25,000 grand prize.

 

Although she didn’t win the grand prize, Johnson received valuable guidance from the contest judges and in September 2019, she launched a new line of tote bags and handbags. Check them out at Cheeky Monkey Home on Etsy.

 

 

Grow Your Business

 

To enter the 2019 Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must share their business strategy by submitting a video (up to one minute in length) on the Grow Your Biz contest site that answers the question: “How would $25,000 help your business grow?*”

 

From the submissions, four finalists will be identified for their business strategy, video creativity and overall enthusiasm to receive a $1,000 Mastercard prepaid card and the opportunity to pitch their businesses to the Grow Your Biz Panel during the final event in New York City on November 14, 2019.

 

The panel of expert judges for the Grow Your Biz contest include:

 

  • Bonin Bough, host of CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles
  • Jaclyn Johnson, founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate
  • Ginger Siegel, Mastercard Head of Small Business,
  • Kelly Firment, Bank of America Small Business Banking executive

 

The judges will provide individual consultation sessions and select one grand-prize winner, who will receive $25,000 to pursue their business plan.

 

*No Purchase Necessary to Enter or Win. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. Restrictions apply. Click here for Official Rules and complete details.

 

Video transcript:

 

[Holly Johnson] I think I knew I wanted to be an artist at a very young age. I can dream something up in my mind, and then make that into something tangible. It’s the most rewarding thing.

 

[Super]

Holly Johnson

Designer & Owner

Cheeky Monkey Home

Bank of America customer

 

[Holly Johnson] I’m Holly Johnson, and I have a business called Cheeky Monkey Home, where I make wool felt appliqué pillows.

 

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child, that I realized working from home was my dream. And that was the perfect kind of transition point for me to start my own business where I could be at home and divide my time more thoughtfully.

 

In the first few years of my business, I was really managing everything. And as sales started to pick up, I found that delegating was really a very important next step.

 

I was also really interested in providing flexible work for mothers who had young children at home. That was the beginning of Sew at Home, where I can train, provide flexible work and community for refugees in the Boston area.

 

[Super]

Samirah Kelhoory

Sewer

 

[Holly Johnson] When I realized that I could actually make an impact, for me that just takes it all to a whole other level.

 

My goal is to expand my business ten times over the next three years. After meeting with my Small Business Banker from Bank of America, the doors really opened up wide in my mind about what the possibilities were.

 

[Tyrone Billingsly] When I first met Holly, we were able to sit down and really understand the ins and outs about her business and the direction that she wanted to go in. And from there, formulate some strategies on how to grow.

 

[Super]

Tyrone Billingsly

Senior Small Business Banker

 

[Holly Johnson] He said you really have to be true to yourself and true to your business. I felt that he was genuinely interested in my success.

 

[Tyrone Billingsly] When I think about Cheeky Monkey Home, it just puts the biggest smile on my face.

 

[Holly Johnson] I would like the power to make beautiful things that bring joy to my customers.Holly.jpg

 

[End Card]

What would you like the power to do?

Bank of America logo

Learn more: bankofamerica.com/Appointment

Bank of America and the Bank of America logo are registered trademarks of Bank of America Corporation. All other logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used pursuant to license. Bank of America, N.A. provides informational reading material for your discussion or review purposes only. Interpretations in this release are not intended, nor implied, to be a substitute for the professional advice received from a qualified accountant, attorney or financial advisor. Neither Bank of America, its affiliates nor their employees provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC © 2019 Bank of America Corporation.

I’ve teamed up with Mastercard and Bank of America team for the third annual Grow Your Biz contest. It’s a contest for small business owners all across the country for the chance to take their business to the next level. The Grow Your Biz Contest began as a Boston initiative in 2017 and expanded nationally last year receiving applications from small business owners across the U.S. And this year, we are doing it again.

 

The grand prize winner will win business consultation sessions with each of the judges, including me, and a chance to win $25,000 to grow their biz, provided by Mastercard. 

 

Entering is easy. Submit a video by October 6th telling us how you plan to grow your small business.  Remember to tell us specifics about your plan to grow your business, have lots of energy like the first year’s winner Rachel Estapa of More to Love Yoga, and last year’s winner Arion Long of Femly. Be creative, but don’t worry about over producing. You can even use your phone to record your video.

 

Four finalists will have the chance to pitch their business live in New York City on November 14th to our Grow Your Biz panel for a chance to win $25,000 and industry expert consultation.

 

Every small business can use a jump start to get to the next level.  Go ahead. Take the leap.  Enter today.

 

No purchase necessary to enter or win. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. For Official Rules and complete details, click here.

Entrepreneurs are smart, savvy people. Hard working, industrious, creative, and the kind of crew who would take a financial windfall (like the one we are offering you below) and make it work for them, unlike, let’s say, some numbskull lottery winners….

 

adult-brainstorming-briefing-1157859.jpg

  • In the mid-80’s Evelyn Adams won the lottery not just once, but twice. So, did she invest her $5.4 million in real estate or buy a business? Did she save it? No and no. Ms. Adams hightailed it to Atlantic City and promptly gambled it all away. Today she lives in a trailer park.

 

  • Denise Rossi won the $1.3 million California Lotto and promptly filed for divorce . . . except she never disclosed the lottery winnings in the divorce proceedings. Two years later, divorce completed, her husband learned the truth and sued. The judge awarded him every single penny of the payout.

 

Like I said, entrepreneurs are different, and that is why I am excited to let you know about an amazing opportunity for the chance to win $25,000 for your small business.

 

Mastercard, in association with Bank of America, is running  the third annual Grow Your Biz Contest.* One lucky winner will get $25,000 to do just that – grow their business. This really is a great opportunity.

 

Here’s how to enter:

 

1. Create and upload a video (up to 1-minute long) that answers this question: How would $25,000 help your business grow?

 

2. Pitch: Four Finalists will be invited to New York City on 11/14/19 to make their pitch to the judges. The four finalists each will receive a $1,000 Mastercard Prepaid® card, professional consultation with the Grow Your Biz Panel, and a trip to the live pitch event in New York City on 11/14/19.

 

3. Win: The Grow Your Biz Panel will select one winner, who will receive the $25,000.

 

You can enter here, but remember, the deadline is October 6.

 

So, I will ask the question again, what would you do with an extra $25,000?

 

Let’s think about that for a moment. Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay this back. And unlike income from the sale of goods, you don’t have to do work to receive it. This is money, and as such, I would suggest it be maximized.

 

What about using it on marketing for example? You could launch a very robust Facebook or Google ad campaign. And the great thing about marketing is that it is the type of investment that tends to pay off long after the actual promotion is over.

 

Or what about opening a new location? Yes, that may be a bit of a challenge on $25K, but then again, you are an entrepreneur. You eat challenges for breakfast. And the great thing about opening another location is that you are creating an additional profit center; something that can pay dividends for years to come.

 

Or what about implementing a new product or service?

 

If you are sensing a pattern to my suggestions, you are right. The chance to receive an unencumbered $25,000 is a rare thing. The savvy entrepreneur would use that windfall to create a long-term investment in the business that will multiply and pay off for years to come.

 

And anyway, it sure beats betting it all on red.

 

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

 

Entrepreneurs will receive the chance to win $25,000 when they Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How would $25,000 help your business grow?” by submitting a video up to 1-minute long online . Four finalists will pitch their business to the Grow Your Biz Panel in New York City on 11/14/19 for the opportunity to win $25,000 and small business-expert consultation. Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com.

 

*No Purchase Necessary to Enter or Win. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. Restrictions apply.https://growyourbizcontest.com/?utm_source=article&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=art_boa-SSClick here for Official Rules and complete details.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Is work/life balance easier to achieve for small business owners? Or is it harder? The answer is both, depending on who and when you ask.

 

apple-bean-bag-blue-169915.jpg

Owning your own business seems to offer greater potential for achieving work/life balance, but especially in the early years of starting up, reaching that elusive goal may seem impossible.

 

In a survey by GetResponse, almost one-third of small business owners cited work/life balance as a reason they started their companies. How did that work out for them? The numbers speak for themselves:

 

  • 25% work more than 40 hours a week
  • 69% answer business emails in their free time
  • 91% work weekends
  • 26% never stop thinking about their business
  • 16% haven’t taken a vacation in over 4 years

 

Personally, I don’t think work/life balance is possible to achieve. Instead, I like to think of it as a work/life seesaw. Most of the time, either work or your personal life will predominate; there’s only a very small fraction of time when everything will be equally balanced.And unlike riding a seesaw, there are times when both work and your personal life are making extreme demandson your time.

 

A survey by FlexJobs found employees value work/life balance more highly than salary when considering taking a new position. There are some ways you can help both yourself and your team find better work/life balance.

 

For your team’s work/life balance:

  • Allow remote work. Set your employees up so they can work outside the office at least some of the time. Using cloud-based data storage and collaboration tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft’s Office 365 makes it easy for you and your team to work from anywhere you have an internet connection.

 

  • Be flexible: If you can’t allow employees to work remotely, try to offer as much flexibility as possible. For example, can your employees work from 7 to 4 instead of 9 to 5? Can they work four, 10-hour days and have the fifth day off? At a minimum, giving employees time off for things such as doctor’s appointments or children’s school plays will help improve your employees’ sense of work/life balance and keep them happier.

 

For your own work/life balance:

  • Prioritize. When you feel swamped, take a look at what’s on your plate and focus on what’s truly important. Usually, that means work only you can do, that delivers high value (such as growing your business), and that serves your most important customers.
  • Negotiate. Do you have a dozen deadlines all hitting on the same day? You’d be surprised how often clients are willing to be flexible. If you know the project is not an urgent priority for the customer, see if you can talk to the customer and extend your deadline. Use this tactic only with established clients who know your track record—and only in dire situations—so it doesn’t damage your reputation.
  • Get help. Many small business owners hate to delegate work, even when they have perfectly capable employees who could handle it. If your work/life balance is out of whack, identify tasks you’re currently doing that someone else could handle, and train them how to take over.
  • Don’t have employees? Look into hiring part-time contractors or virtual assistants or handing off some of your personal life duties, like cooking, cleaning or picking up dry cleaning, to your family. Make sure you are taking advantage of business apps that can automate and streamline time-consuming menial tasks, such as scheduling blog posts or email blasts, coordinating meetings or generating invoices.
  • Schedule some downtime. Whether it’s a short meditation every morning, a vigorous game of tennis on Sundays, or a weekly lunch with a friend, build in a little bit of time every week to decompress. Even when you’re working your hardest, having that downtime in your calendar and sticking to it will make you feel like you’re not just a work machine.

 

Work/life balance may be almost impossible to attain, but trying to get as close as possible will give you more energy for both your life and your business.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

46780956_s.jpg

No amount of sophisticated technology will ever take the place of live, in-person connecting. However, the next best thing is video. Especially live video, when possible. I’ve said this for over a decade and it’s never been more true than now, given the incredible access businesses have to video and streaming technologies.

 

As a small business owner, you can really stand out with creative use of video – both recorded and live. The benefits of showcasing your business with more video include:

 

  • Better tell the stories
  • Draw your audience in with emotionally connecting videos.
  • Stand out in Facebook and Instagram news feeds. With so much competition for attention, it’s the autoplay feature that catches people’s eye.
  • Facebook has been increasingly favoring video in the news feed and especially recently with the global release of the Watch platform.

 

Facebook is determined to become a destination digital streaming video platform, right up there with YouTube, Netflix and Amazon. Facebook’s video mission is:

 

“Create shared experiences and a sense of belonging through video.”

 

It’s not just about creating and publishing more video content. It’s about building more community and sparking meaningful social interaction with your videos. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of publishing more video content across all your social media channels.

 

Last year I asked my audience to share their No. 1 challenge with getting measurable results using video on Facebook. We received over 300 responses, and these were the top five challenges people shared:

 

 

#5. Gear: Which professional yet affordable lighting, microphone, camera and accessories to use

#4. Confidence: How to overcome fears of looking silly, making mistakes, feeling too old and more

#3. Differentiation: How to stand out when it seems everyone is doing a lot of the same things with video

#2. Content: Knowing what to say; how to map out an effective content plan

#1. Time: How to find the time to create and shoot quality, professional videos for business

 

Speaking of contests, Bank of America recently teamed up with Mastercard for a fabulous contest where one lucky grand prize small business owner will receive $25,000.* To enter, you simply submit a one minute video to www.growyourbizcontest.com, explaining how $25,000 would help your business grow. All submissions will be judged on the strength and opportunity of the business plan, creativity in the use of $25,000, and overall appeal, personality and enthusiasm of entry.  Four finalists will be selected and flown to New York City to present their pitches in front of a panel of judges and live audience on 11/14/2019.

 

Entering this contest is a terrific opportunity to practice your video skills. I suggest sketching out a storyboard of your one minute video first. Less is more. Don’t cram too much in. It’s better to make one clear point, versus packing five points into one minute. Ideally, talk into the camera, looking into the lens. Here are three simple tips for how to frame a talking head.

 

If you’re already clear on your business growth plans, it might be really easy for you to shoot a one minute video. However, remember it can take more time to craft a short, concise message.

 

Easy-to-use video tools abound

 

Time consistently comes up as a challenge when it comes to creating quality video and all social media content, for that matter. However, the good news is there are simple solutions to dramatically speed up the time it takes to create terrific videos.

 

First, compile existing photo and short video clip footage you may already have on your mobile device. Check with your team members, too, for useable footage they may have as well.

 

Then, using a free tool like Adobe Spark (available on both desktop and iOS), you can easily and quickly create eye-catching video montages with text overlay and music. Animoto is another great video tool to create compelling video montages from scratch or using their array of creative templates.

 

You can also take advantage of terrific stock photos, video clips and music. Wave.video includes access to over 200 million premium assets – that’s a vast library! You’ll never be stuck for just the right photo, graphic, illustration, video clip or soundtrack to clearly communicate your brand’s message.

 

Another aspect I especially appreciate about Wave.video is you can simultaneously create multiple video formats. For example, let’s say you create a landscape version of your video for sharing on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. And then export the square version for Instagram and Twitter. And the 9:16 vertical version for an Instagram or Facebook Story – organic Story and/or Story ad. Plus, there’s even a Facebook Page covering video aspect ratio.

 

So, by taking one video concept, you can quickly create multiple variations and repurpose that same video for a successful cohesive campaign and save a huge amount of time. Then, when you launch a promotional campaign using your video content, your videos literally start popping up everywhere and your audiences across your various social channels will pay more attention.

 

To address some of the other challenges with creating video content mentioned earlier, do take a look at my new 3-part Video Success Kit with super helpful free resources!

 

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

 

Entrepreneurs will receive the chance to win $25,000 when they enter Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest, in association with Bank of America. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How would $25,000 help your business grow?” by submitting a video up to 1-minute long online . Four finalists will pitch their business to the Grow Your Biz Panel in New York City on 11/14/2019 for the opportunity to win $25,000 and small business-expert consultation. Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com.

 

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

 

About Mari Smith

 

mari_0362xFACE_preview.jpg

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

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

My dad thought he had a foolproof plan for success. In his will, he divided his carpet warehouse five ways: one share each for each of his four kids and a fifth for his store manager who would run it until one or all of us were ready to take over.

 

administration-banking-blur-618158.jpg

My sweet dad died young and unexpectedly and clearly he never anticipated what a headache his plan would become. The manager did not like doing 100% of the work but keeping only 1/5th of the income.

 

Eventually we had to sell out to her.

 

When it comes to retirement, planning ahead should provide peace of mind. But that’s not always true. With so many options, how can you decide what is best for both you, your business, and your family?

 

While planning for your future, here are three of the best options on what you can do with your business when you are ready to retire:

 

1. Sell it

 

There are obviously many advantages to selling your business. First and foremost, putting your business up for sale is a great way to cash-in on the investment you made in building it from the ground up.

 

But it is not as simple as you might think to sell; many small business owners try and fail when they attempt to sell their businesses. In some cases, they overestimate what their business is worth, and in others, they don’t prep the business for sale as they should and it doesn’t generate any interest.

 

As a general rule, a business is worth three to five times profit in any given year.

 

The key then is to treat the business sale as akin to a home sale. Spruce it up. Have it be impressive both physically as well as financially. Get a good broker.

 

Indeed, a good business broker should prove to be invaluable in this process. They will not only help set the right value, but will also have access to potential buyers for their business, and will know the legal ins-and-outs.

 

The Right Way to Prepare Your Small Business for Sale by Rieva Lesonsky

 

2. Give it to someone you love

 

Many people choose this option when it comes to retirement, and for good reason. Not a few entrepreneurs start a business with the idea that they will give it to their kids when the time is right.

 

But there are several challenges with giving it away:

 

      • You will not be able to get your equity out of the business
      • Your kids may not want it
      • Or they may all want it and will squabble over it (See Succession on HBO for worst case scenarios!)

 

The key then is to create a viable succession plan (better than my dad’s for sure.) Talk it out openly with your family. A succession plan lays out who will take over your business, how the transition will be handled, and irons out other details in the process. This can be a helpful way for business owners and their heirs to know the timetable for when their business will be transferred, to who, and how (if any) employees will be affected.

 

The Importance of Succession Planning for Your Businesses

 

3. Simply close the doors

 

In some cases, a business can’t easily be sold or given away. For example, if you are a consultant, you and your personal skills and contacts are essentially the business. There is nothing much to sell. If this is the case for you, then you might want to consider just closing down the business entirely.

 

While there may not be any intellectual property to sell, it is possible that you can sell valuable parts of the business - like machinery, inventory, or even a customer list - and make a small profit before shuttering your doors.

 

This can also sometimes be the best case scenario for small business owners who are ready to hang up their hats as soon as possible.

 

Whatever option you might pick, the key to retirement planning is just that – planning.

 

Podcast: Retirement Tips for Small Business Owners

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

After spending a summer looking at your friends’ and colleagues’ vacation photos on social media, you might be itching for a little time away yourself.

activity-adventure-blur-297642.jpg

 

For busy small business owners, a two-week trip to Europe may be out of the question. Just 9% of small business owners surveyed by OnDeck say they take two-week vacations. But that doesn’t mean you have to go without any R&R. More than half (57%) of small business owners surveyed plan to take a vacation of some sort and combining business and leisure on a long weekend trip is a great way to get the best of both worlds.

 

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your get away.

 

Look for a destination with plenty to offer. Is there an industry convention coming up in Hawaii or New Orleans? Do you have a client in New York City or San Francisco? If so, see if you can’t combine a business trip with some time off in one of these popular vacation destinations. If you’re planning to bring your spouse or children along, make sure there will be activities to occupy them during the times you’re meeting with the client or attending your business events.

 

Plan ahead. For many small business owners, the idea of completely unplugging from their businesses increases panic. If this is you, you’re not alone: more than two-thirds of the business owners in the OnDeck survey say they check in with work at least once a day while  on vacation. A trip that combines business and pleasure gives you the perfect excuse to relax a bit while still checking your emails. On the other hand, if you do want to enjoy some real downtime, make sure your team back at the office is prepared to handle things during the days you’ll be vacationing.

 

Keep good records of your expenses. Some of your business travel expenses may be deductible, including the cost of transportation to and from your destination, lodging, meals, tips and taxis or other transportation at your destination. In order to claim these deductions, you’ll need to keep careful records and separate business from personal expenses. Shoeboxed is a great, simple app to scan, digitize and organize your receipts.

 

Know the tax laws. In order to be deductible, your travel destination has to be outside your business’s “tax home” (the city where your business is located) and the business purpose of your trip must require an overnight stay. Any expenses you deduct for business must be considered “ordinary and necessary” and directly related to your business.

In order to deduct any part of your trip as business travel expenses, the business portion of your trip has to be longer than the vacation part. A day counts as a business day if the majority of your time during business hours are spent on business purposes. Traveling to or from the business location also counts as a business day; so do weekends if they are in between two days that are devoted to business. This makes a Friday to Monday trip a perfect way to maximize your deductions and your downtime, as long as you conduct  business on Friday and on Monday.

 

The IRS has strict rules for what you can deduct as a business travel expense, and recent tax law changes have affected many formerly allowable deductions. Visit the IRS website for more on deductible business travel expenses and talk to your tax professional before making travel plans.

 

As busy entrepreneurs, we all need time to rest and recharge to keep our businesses functioning at peak performance. Combining business with pleasure over a long weekend can help you re-energize while growing your business. What could be better?

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Join Bank of America Merchant Services as we walk through the steps for setting up an eCommerce website.

 

From accepting payments to addressing common cybersecurity issues, this educational webinar will feature experts from Bank of America Merchant Services and Visa who will show you what every successful online business needs to get started. Whether you are looking to expand a brick and mortar business online, or planning to launch a new business altogether, join us for helpful information.

 

Session topics include:

  • The 3 P’s of eCommerce
  • Fraud & Security risks
  • Creating positive customer experiences

Date: Wednesday September 18th from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. ET

 

To register for the Bank of America Merchant Services "Click to sell" webinar, click here.

BofA_Podcast_HeartbeatofMainStpng.png

Authenticity is what can take "that shop down the street" to a go-to spot. Small Business Community contributor, Chris Brogan shares his thoughts on how small business owners can achieve an authentic voice on this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street.”

 

iTunes-Button.gif

 

“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. And here's your host, Greg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         I'm here with Chris Brogan. He's the president of Chris Brogan Media. They offer business and marketing advisory help for mid-to-larger sized companies. If you're not a big company, he also helps small business owners through classes and webinars at Owner Media Group. Chris Brogan Media is at chrisbrogan.com, Owner Media Group is at owner.media. Chris is also a New York Times bestselling author, and his 10th book is coming soon. It's called Dented, Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age. Chris, welcome.

 

Chris Brogan:             Thank you so much for having me.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, we're going to talk about brand building today, and focus very specifically on one word. It's the word “authentic.” And you're the perfect guy to do this, because you do a lot of work with brands, like Disney, and Coke, Google, GM, Coldwell Banker, Titleist, Humana Health, Cisco, Sony. I could go on, and on, and on. This must be something you think about a lot, because people talk a lot about the word authentic.

 

Chris Brogan:             Well, it's one of those pet peeves of mine. I think that the word authentic is thrown around a lot from marketing types, and I think it's one of those things where ... I had a friend a long time ago talk about marketers and say, "This is why we can't have nice things." I think that the basic term of “authenticity,” taken away from marketers just means you do what you say, and you say what you do, and what you come to the table with is who you really are.

 

                                   What happens in technology, and marketing, and all that sort of thing, is we come away with this sort of weird space-aliens-pretending-to-be-humans kind of version of this. And we're like, "What can we do to seem like a human?" And it's so pervasive right now, especially as more and more digital tools allow us to automate everything.

 

                                   And while I'm not saying, “Don't use digital tools,” while marketing automation is a really important part of business these days, I would say that trying to engineer how to be human is a lot different than helping people better interpret how to bring their real self to their customers at a distance, the way we're so comfortable doing across the counter at a store in a small town.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Again, you're the guy with the upcoming book called Dented, Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age. So, if authenticity should not be the goal, what should small business owners aim to accomplish when interacting with their customers and prospects?

 

Chris Brogan:             I guess it's not that it's notauthenticity, but I guess the real focus, if you're really worried about that, the real focus comes in two directions at once, which is looking at yourself and making sure you feel comfortable bringing your whole self to the picnic. I use the analogy “picnic” to mean anywhere where you're wondering what you bring. So, if you are coming to work at a company, you want to know what your skills and qualifications and capabilities are. If you're working with clients, you're going to make sure that you've got that thing that they need.

 

                                   And so, on the one side, as the business side of things, you're saying, "What am I going to do that's going to be of use and service to the people that I hope to do business with?" and also be thinking about those people I hope to serve say, "How do I stay clear on seeing the whole person? And really seeing very specific people?"

 

                                   We want to buy from people who have similar, shared values. There was this stat out there somewhere, and I'm making this number up, high 70's or 80%, saying that we want companies, we believe in some way that it's a company's responsibility to be out there doing things that support our shared value. If you think about that, it's a little crazy.

 

                                   If you're a local, small town hardware store, how much are you going to deal with climate change? However, you can. You could say, "We're not gonna do this kind of packaging. We're going to make it super important that we don't sell you little tiny disposable plastic bags." There's all these things that help endear you to the needs of your customer and the people you hope to serve.

 

                                   What we used to think we had to do is look perfect, look shiny, look like the best of everything we've ever been and maybe even if we have a few dents, a few scars, a few marks, maybe we could still show up and be of service. And I think that if we acknowledge instead of ignore or hide those things, that's what we get to when people say they want authenticity.

 

Gregg Stebben:         One of the things I'm getting from all that you just said, it seems to me that business owners would be really smart to think about the thing they do that provides usefulness and service, and think of that separately from who am I? So the who am I part, can be dented. You are dented, I think you would say and otherwise you wouldn't write a book called Dented, Retrofitting Humans for the Modern Digital Age. So, who you are is who you are, dents and all, right?

 

Chris Brogan:            There's so many ways to implement this. In my mind, sort of leaving our flaws and foibles behind for a quick second. I was out with my two kids yesterday, and we were having lunch at a Japanese place, and they wanted sushi. And so we were talking amongst ourselves about a big event, a trade event for video games, and the server who is standing very nearby came over and just sort of politely said, "Oh, are you talking about the E3 conference?" And he became part of our conversation.

 

                                   Well, most companies, most owners and whatnot, try to dissuade people from adding their personal touch to things. And there are definitely times where it's useful and times when it's not. But I think that in the process, in kind of accepting that we're not all perfect, we're being asked to go faster than we've ever gone. We're being asked to collaborate and in a lot of times we're being asked to be forced extroverts.

 

                                  People are blown away when they hear that I'm an introvert, but I am. It's kind of a weird role to be a keynote speaker, an advisor consultant, that sort of a thing, to be out on the public stage and also be not necessarily the first person to want to touch other people and connect. So, I tell people, in a world where we all have to be visual now, in the world where we have to be brief, we have to use video, the mobile devices are taking over the world, et cetera. Well, we still have to bring who we are to that.

 

                                   And if that means accepting that we're too whatever we think we shouldn't be. We're too fat. We're too old. We have a stutter or whatever. Where our big problem is, we have to find a way to bring that. The second part of what you said about worrying about delivering perfect service, we don't necessarily want to make mistakes that impact our customer. That hasn't changed. That'll never change. It's all fine that someone's, quirky and whatnot, but if you ordered a salad and they bring you a hot dog, it's not the right thing.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Or a salad of wilted lettuce.

 

Chris Brogan:             There you go. So we need to protect for that, but it seems like the past version, it looks... salad and wilted lettuce. Someone brings out the salad. It looks terrible. You look down and go, "Oh my gosh, I didn't even notice that." In the old days, the way companies would tend to do something about that is they would either just say, "We didn't do that." They'd brush it off. Nothing like that happened. It's like Jedi mind trick. These aren't the salad leaves you're looking for. And it doesn't work that way anymore. It's too public. Everything's too visual. It's never that we should have been deceptive, but now the tools all point to, "You darn well better do what you say."

 

Gregg Stebben:         Chris, I want to ask you one last question. I'm talking with Chris Brogan. He's an author, keynote speaker, and business advisor. His website is chrisbrogan.com. He works with mid to larger sized companies. He also has another company called Owner Media Group that works with small business owners. Owner Media Group is at owner.media. The last question I want to ask you, because we've been talking about this whole phenomena of the appropriate and misappropriated use of the word authentic. Have you heard of other words like authentic that set off alarms for customers?

 

Chris Brogan:             Oh my goodness. So I think at this point with all the... I think customers, by the way, customers are so tuned to catch BS. And I think we have this weird thing when it comes to marketing or promoting our own company, that we always forget that if we wouldn't want to receive it, why would we think it would be effective to send out? They say, when you send it, it's a well-crafted business letter designed to really drive value to someone else, and when you receive it, it's called junk mail.

 

                                   And I think that when it comes to authenticity, we've just had so many examples of companies not doing what they say or not treating us well, etc. Every single day it seems you can read a new version of what Facebook may or may not have done, or that your wireless carrier is selling your data without your permission, etc., etc.

 

                                  Trust is just at an all-time low. And sort of circling back to my first book about trust agents with Julien Smith, we wrote that saying, there's such an opportunity to really connect with people and to earn their trust and to be open. And where it gets scary for everybody is that to be open means to be a little bit more vulnerable. And I would say going with the word authenticity, the other word is vulnerable. We know this even with a significant other. We could have a conversation, but sometimes we have to let our guard down and if we don't, it's just not going to go the way we need it to go. And it's not going to work for the mutual appreciation of everybody around us.

 

                                  These are not the kinds of things you think about when you run a small HVAC company or something like that. If you're a plumber putting in piping systems, you don't normally sit around thinking, "Am I vulnerable enough to my customer?", but maybe there's some places where we have to think about that, and maybe there are some places where if we're going to try to reach and earn the kinds of customers we most want to sell and serve, then we're going to have to open the kimono a tiny bit.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Well said. He is Chris Brogan. His company is Chris Brogan Media at chrisbrogan.com. That is really targeting mid-to-larger size companies, offering business and marketing advisory services. For smaller companies, he is also the owner of Owner Media Group. They offer classes and webinars there. It's at owner.media and Chris is on Twitter @chrisbrogan. Chris, where can our listeners find out more about your book, Trust Agents, your new book, Dented, and get more of your great marketing tips for small business?

 

Chris Brogan:             If anyone wants, swing by chrisbrogan.com. And I always say the same thing. The little newsletter sign up that pops up. That's the best thing I do every single week. You can always hit reply and talk to me directly, and I think that you get a real fast taste of whether or not you want to connect with me further just from that.

 

Gregg Stebben:         That's great. And for more great tips from Chris and other small business experts, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community. It's at bankofamerica.com/sbc. Chris, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Chris Brogan:             My pleasure. Thank you.

 

Narrator:                     Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

Back in the day, I had a client who spent about $25,000 to open an online store only to close it less than a month later.

 

She had access to a large cache of books that she was going to sell (yes, this was long before the complete global dominance of Amazon in books, err, everything) and so she went all-in. Unfortunately, she failed to calculate the cost of shipping heavy books (again, e-commerce was in its infancy). Once she did, making a profit became an impossibility.

 

color-commerce-flowers-1686974.jpg

All of which is to say, when you sell products, either in your physical store or your e-store, you need to be able to source not only the right products for your brand and business, but also items that allow enough room for markup and profit-taking.

 

Consider: A manufacturer creates the product and sells it to a wholesaler. The wholesaler may distribute the products directly or may sell to distributors. As such, if you purchase your products far down the line, making a profit may be difficult because there have been several layers of profit-taking already.

 

Sourcing the right products

 

So, how do you find the right products? Below are your options, but first, a caveat:

 

There are a lot of scammers in the product sourcing world. There are literally thousands of websites from cheats who claim to be real wholesalers and distributors but are not. You must do your research, find potential suppliers, and then do more research. Make sure they are legitimate, and legitimately rated well. Get references.

 

OK, with that in mind, your sourcing options are:

 

Contact the manufacturer: If you know of products that you like and want to sell, the easiest and smartest way is just to start at the top. Look at the packaging for the product, find the manufacturer, and give them a call. Ask for the sales department.

 

As a small business with small sales, it may not make sense for them to sell to you and in that case, find out who their local distributor is in your area and call them.

 

Trade groups: Trade groups, publications and websites, and especially trade shows are another excellent way to find people manufacturing and distributing products. That you can meet them face to face at a show and make a good impression is all the better.

 

Google: The problem with simply doing a Google search is that you will be overwhelmed with options. But if you have the time and ability to cull through them, then this of course is a fine way to go.

 

LinkedIn: LinkedIn can be an excellent source for sourcing products. Put in the type of product or manufacturer you are looking for and voila! You will get a list of people in your extended network who offer that.

 

Thomas Register: The Thomas Network (website, etc.) is a respected, long-established resource for connecting buyers and suppliers.

 

Amazon: You need to be especially cautious when going this route. There are plenty of unscrupulous sellers on Amazon, so be careful. That said, Amazon also offers everything. One tool that might be especially helpful here is SourceMogul, “the search engine that sources profitable products for you to sell on Amazon.”

 

E-Commerce 101: What You Need to Know About Amazon Marketplace

 

Etsy Wholesale: Etsy is a global marketplace for creative goods and so Etsy Wholesale might be a good option for you.

 

The Best Platforms to Launch Your E-commerce Side Hustle

 

Alibaba: Alibaba is a Chinese platform that connects Chinese manufacturers and wholesalers with buyers from around the world.

 

 

American-made products

 

If you want to sell only goods manufactured in the U.S., then you have a few options:

 

 

Whatever way you go, remember that the key to making a profit is not in the selling, it is in the buying. Buy the right product for the right price and you are on your way.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Filter Article

By tag: