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48 Posts authored by: Rieva Lesonsky

Is your small business (or your dream of starting one) on the right track? Whether your business is still in the planning stages or is a well-established venture, having a long-term vision for your business is essential to moving it forward.

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How can you achieve your loftiest plans? Follow these six steps.

 

Step 1: Clarify your business vision

 

The term visionmay conjure up images of a distant, hazy landscape. But if you want to achieve your business vision, you must  be crystal clear on what it is. Start with a “brain dump” of what you want for your business within the next one, three and five years (or even further out). Your vision might be revamping your brand, expanding to an entirely new market or region, becoming a household name, or reaching a certain sales target.

 

  • Tip: Creating a vision board showing what you want can help you identify goals and think about what achieving that vision would look and feel like. 

 

Step 2: Make a plan

 

If your business is still in the pre-startup stages, now’s the time to write a business plan. (BPlans and SCORE* have tons of useful business plan resources.) Even if your business is up and running it’s not too late. Plan for achieving your vision as carefully as you did your startup. For example, if you want to expand your retail business nationally, where do you need to start?

 

  • Tip: Think through what’s involved and write out each step.

 

Step 3: Break it down

 

Your vision plan will be overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once. Dig into your plan and break every step into smaller steps. For example, for the vision of expanding nationally, one step might be identifying possible locations. You can break this into smaller steps such as:

 

    • Identifying potential markets
    • Researching demographics in those markets
    • Investigating vendors and suppliers in those markets
    • Visiting commercial real estate websites
    • Contacting commercial real estate agents

 

  • Tip: If you’re having trouble getting started on a particular step, break it down even smaller. For instance, “Contacting commercial real estate agents” can start with “Find contact information for 3 agents.” Even taking small steps will give you a sense of progress and help keep you on track.

 

Step 4: Find your cheerleaders

 

Making your business vision a reality will take time and commitment. To improve your odds of success, find supporters to motivate you when times are tough. These can include experts and advisors such as a business mentor, colleagues who have your back, or friends and family members who always know the right thing to say.

 

  • Tip: You’re not looking for “yes men,” but rather for good listeners to bounce ideas off of and vent frustrations in an appropriate environment.

 

Step 5: Track your progress

 

On the journey to achieve your vision, it’s easy to stray off course—especially when you’re also handling the day-to-day challenges of running a small business. That’s why it’s so important to track your progress. Set up periodic check-ins with yourself and your team. Schedule them weekly, monthly, quarterly or at whatever frequency works best for you. The key is to hold yourself and your employees accountable for continually working toward the goals that you’ve set.

 

  • Tip: At each check-in, review your progress, assess whether you need to modify your plans, and recommit to moving forward.

 

Step 6: Celebrate your successes

 

Making your vision a reality can be a long process. Along the way, take time to celebrate victories, no matter how small. When team members achieve goals, give them rewards and public praise. When the team reaches a milestone, throw a party or take them to lunch. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, reward yourself whenever you surmount a hurdle. Treat yourself to something special or take time out for an activity you enjoy.

 

By following these six steps, you’ll achieve your vision for your business before you know it. What’s on your horizon?  Tell us in the Comments section below.

 

*Disclaimer: SCORE is a client of my company.

Owning a restaurant is the culmination of the American Dream for many—particularly within immigrant communities. In fact, according to the U.S. census, as reported in Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN),immigrants own 29 percent of all restaurants and hotels in the U.S., more than twice the 14 percent rate for all businesses.

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As romantic and exciting as owning a restaurant might be, it’s not easy. Food trends are constantly shifting—with some disappearing as quickly as they emerged. Still, despite some reports of a coming “bloodbath” in the industry, there are signs of stabilization and even growth. NRNreports on data from TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence showing same-store sales in December grew 2 percent, the highest in more than three years. December was also the seventh straight month of positive industry growth. Overall, same-store sales in 2018 were up 0.7 percent, which may not seem like a lot, but was the industry’s “best performance” since 2015.

To find out about the latest restaurant trends I talked to Nancy Luna, Senior Editor at Nation’s Restaurant News.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What current national trends are you seeing? Last year it seemed it was all about providing breakfast all day. What’s the “must do” for 2019?

 

Nancy Luna: Restaurant trends these days are more focused on operational efficiency The continued shift toward an on-demand society is forcing restaurants to provide customers with delicious food in a timely manner through delivery, and mobile order/pickup. This is happening in both QSR [quick service] and casual di

ning. Not so much in fine dining.

 

Lesonsky: What changes do you think restaurants need to make to appeal to millennials, the nation’s largest consumer group?

 

Luna: I would argue restaurants are no longer catering specifically to millennials. That was overtly true two-three years ago. Today’s restaurants, at least the smart ones, are moving towards capturing a new category of diners: on-the-go, stay-at-home eaters who want to sit on their couch eating their favorite restaurant food while binge-watching shows on Netflix. That could be Gen Y, Gen X or Gen Z. You can see this playing out in QSR and Fast Casual, as [I] cited in this story.

 

Lesonsky: You’ve confirmed what I’ve heard—that every restaurant must offer a delivery option. True, or is it hyperbole?

 

Luna: Mostly true. Clearly delivery is not the right business model for fine dining concepts. It’s most advantageous for casual dining, which has struggled to compete with the quality and affordability of fast casual players. For casual dining, delivery levels the playing field and has contributed to incremental sales, according to chains I’ve interviewed.

 

Restaurant Trends to Watch

 

As for what America wants to eat, Restaurant Business says these trends will take hold in 2019.

 

  • Look for more plant-based patties on restaurant menus, as well as “veg-forward dishes.”
  • Yet “2019 will see a record-high beef supply…and prices have declined for prime rib-eyes and loins. More favorable beef costs may translate to more of this red meat on menus, perhaps in smaller portions in sync with healthy eating trends.”
  • Butter is back. Restaurant Businesssays it will be “enhancing everything from coffee to grilled meats with rich flavor.”
  • Sour power. The “rise of Persian and Filipino cuisines” have pushed extreme sour foods into the mainstream. That means foods flavored with ingredients such as vinegar, tamarind, pomegranates, and sour oranges.

 

For more on 2019 restaurant trends, check out this article.

 

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

It’s our job as entrepreneurs to keep up with the latest trends—but it can be hard to keep up. It’s essential to know what’s driving consumer spending and how you can integrate new trends into your small business. Here’s what to look for in 2019. Have more? Let us know what trends you’re following in the comments section below.

 

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1. Generational marketing

 

There are currently five generations in America, each with its own set of demands. Three (baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z) are so large they have an outsize impact on industries and specific businesses. But no one has more influence in the marketplace than millennials.

 

2. Millennials

 

This huge generation—there are 84 million of them, ranging in age from 19 to 37—is too big to ignore. And they’re in the stage of life where they’re impacting so many businesses. Take weddings – already, according to The Knot, a $72 billion industry. Businesses affiliated with weddings, from retailers, to jewelry designers to restaurants, photographers, florists and dozens more, are poised to grow even more as younger millennials approach the median age of first marriage—29 for women and 31 for men.

 

The Knot reports two to three years after getting married, 35 percent of millennials start a family and 24 percent buy a home. That leads to many entrepreneurial opportunities for years to come.

 

3. Millennial parents

 

Millennials are the nation’s parents—they head 51.2 percent of households with children under age 18. Parents are big spenders—to the tune of $1 trillion a year. And, for the first time, women in their 30s are having more kids than those in their 20s. This is great news for entrepreneurs, since older parents spend more money on food, furniture, clothing, décor, and toys for their kids. More than one million millennial women become new mothers every year, and since so many millennials are still in their 20s, this is a long-lasting trend.

 

4. Home, sweet home

 

Home ownership peaked in 2004, but is now on the rise, thanks to millennials. Between millennials and older generations of home owners holding on to their houses, businesses involved in the remodeling industry will get a boost. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the most in-demand remodeling projects include bathroom, kitchen and whole-house remodels. Homeowners are also asking for more green home features.

 

Seniors (including baby boomers) are demanding more home services—82 percent of them are still home owners. They’re hiring contractors to senior proof their homes. They want wider doorways, lower cabinets, wood floors, and bathroom remodels to make their homes safer and more accessible.

 

They often prefer others handle home maintenance chores, turning to home services businesses to get the job done. While housecleaning, lawn care, snow removal and handyman services aren’t just for seniors, targeting this market can help small businesses build a thriving business.

 

5. Mangia!

 

Americans love to eat, so there’s no shortage of new food trends. According to restaurant and hospitality consulting firm af&co., donuts are 2019’s “dessert of the year.” These aren’t your typical donuts though—consumers want artisanal treats with “unexpected savory flavors and fillings.”

 

Food on demand (either pick-up or delivery) is also soaring. Off-premises dining (including carryout, delivery, drive-through, curbside pickup and food trucks) accounts for 63 percent of restaurant traffic nationwide, and delivery is the fastest-growing segment of this market, says the National Restaurant Association. Consumers expect restaurants to deliver food. 

 

Younger millennials actually prefer off-premises dining—24 percent order takeout three to four times a week, compared to 21 percent of older millennials, 17 percent of Gen Xers and 6 percent of baby boomers, according to the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) and the Center for Generational Kinetics.

 

6. Looking Good

 

Men’s grooming is a burgeoning industry. Men’s personal care products (including skincare, deodorant, soap/bath products, hair products & shaving/depilatories) are already a $4.5 billion industry. Millennials are driving this trend as well, increasingly scooping up anti-aging products. According to new research from Mintel, 34 percent of dads (with children under 18) who use personal care products care about preventing the signs of aging, compared to 26 percent of male personal care product users overall.

 

And yet, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database, only a small percentage of men’s personal care products make anti-aging claims. This leaves a huge gap in the market. Mintel says, there’s “a significant opportunity for anti-aging personal care products specifically formulated for and marketed to men.”

 

These are just a few of the trends Americans are expected to embrace in 2019. Consumers have rising expectations, however, so you’ll have to work hard to meet them.

 

     What’s next?

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Have you wrestled with issues such as these?

 

  • Your business is struggling financially. A supplier sends you their monthly invoice—and they’ve significantly undercharged you. Do you correct the error?agreement-arms-business-1081228.jpg
  • Your children’s toy store is in the thick of the holiday shopping season when you discover that your best-selling product line is made using child labor. Do you keep selling the products?
  • You’ve received complaints that one of your employees is making derogatory and inappropriate comments to coworkers. But he’s your top salesperson and you know he’s recently received another job offer. Do you confront him?

 

In these and other situations, a small business owner may have to choose between principles and profits. But is it really an either-or choice?

 

Short-term profits, long-term price

 

Sticking to your principles may cost you in the short term. In the examples above, it could cost you money, customers or your best salesperson. But if you abandon your principles, you’ll pay a higher price in the long term.

 

Actually, you may not have to wait that long. Social media makes it easier than ever for customers and prospects to see what your principles are and when  you’re conveniently ignoring them. A potential job candidate could see employees at your company complaining about on-the-job harassment. A customer could discover the child labor issue before you do. Transparency gives consumers the upper hand.

 

Profiting from principles

 

In fact, sticking to your principles can pay off. According to a Deloitte study, purchasing drivers such as “social impact, health and wellness, safety and experience” are becoming more important as consumers increasingly base purchasing decisions on their values and beliefs.

 

In the last 12 months, 74 percent of consumers in a JUST Capital survey say they began purchasing or purchasing more of a company’s products or services in order to show support for its positive behavior. The same poll found nearly eight out of 10 Americans would take lower pay to work for a company they perceive as “just.”

 

The stock market believes principles and profits can work hand in hand. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index rates public companies based on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. Participating companies report on their financial, social and environmental performance.

 

What principles do consumers care about most? The way you treat your employees takes top billing. Worker conditions, including fair pay, good benefits and a safe workplace, are the top priority for one-fourth of U.S. consumers considering companies’ principles, JUST reports.

 

How to balance principles and profit

 

How can you hold onto your principles while still making a profit?

 

  • Identify your business principles. What are your core values? What does your business stand for? Review your mission statement, value statement or vision statement. Are they still accurate?
  • Talk to your team. What do your employees think your business stands for? Do they believe the company is truly living its values? Your employees are the ambassadors for your business; they must be on the same page when it comes to company values.
  • Build your business’s values into your employee training. Set guidelines for how employees should treat customers, coworkers and vendors, as well as consequences for not doing so.
  • Practice. It’s not easy to make ethical decisions on the spot. Practice by roleplaying potential scenarios as a group. What should employees do if they see another employee harassing a co-worker? Is there ever a time when it’s justified to take office supplies home?
  • Look in the mirror. If your business isn’t living up to its principles, do you play a role in that? Perhaps you set production quotas so high that employees have to rush to keep up, compromising product quality. Own your mistakes and lead by example going forward.
  • Keep your eyes open. Pay attention to what your vendors, customers and suppliers are doing. It’s a global world and we’re all connected. Doing business with people and companies that share your principles will strengthen your commitment to your values.

 

Principles and profits can and should go hand in hand. Committing to your business principles and educating your customers about them will boost your brand—and ultimately, your profits.

 

Read next:

 

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Your business is thriving. Customers keep asking when you’re going to open another location. Some even ask if your business is a franchise—and if they can buy one.

 

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So, you wonder: should you start franchising your concept? Not so fast. Just because your business is successful doesn’t mean it can – or should – be franchised.

 

Here are five steps to take before franchising your business.

 

Step 1: Assess your business.

 

Is your business running smoothly? Do you have operations manuals, training processes and documented systems in place? If you take a vacation, does the business fall apart or run like clockwork?

 

Do you have multiple locations? Before considering franchising, start small by expanding your business locally or regionally. This proves your concept’s viability outside of its initial location, educates you in managing multiple locations, and raises brand awareness—which helps sell franchises later.

 

Step 2: Assess your market.

 

Just as when starting your business, do market research before franchising it. Ask:

 

  • Is the industry growing?
  • Is the customer base growing?
  • Does the concept have “legs?” A business based on a fad may succeed in one location but has little chance of lasting.
  • Who are your competitors and what advantages do you have?

 

Step 3: Assess your capital needs.

 

Franchising can be a cost-effective way to grow your business, because franchisees finance their startups, sign their own leases and take responsibility for operating costs.

However, until you actually sell some franchises, you’ll be footing the bill for legal and accounting assistance, franchisee training and support, and marketing and sales costs. Gather adequate capital to finance your franchise plans.

 

Step 4: Assess yourself.

 

Being a franchisor is different than being an independent business owner. As a franchisor, your focus will be on selling franchises and supporting your franchisees—not on baking pies, teaching children’s gymnastics or whatever passion encouraged your business. If you don’t have what it takes, hire or partner with someone who does.

 

Step 5: Get professional help

 

Franchising requires lots of decisions:

  • What criteria you’ll set for franchisees
  • What fees and royalties you’ll charge
  • Franchisee territories
  • Whether to sell master franchises
  • Requirements for using suppliers and vendors
  • The training and support you’ll provide franchisees

 

Put these professionals on your team to help:

 

Accountant

 

An accountant can help you determine if you have the necessary capital to franchise, if franchising is financially viable, and what franchise fees and royalties to charge. (Being a franchisor is not cheap—startup costs, at minimum, will likely run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

 

Attorney

 

Franchising is highly regulated on both federal and state levels. An attorney can create a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and help you register it with the  Federal Trade Commission. The FDD includes detailed information about your franchise opportunity, such as audited financial statements, management experience, franchise costs and fees, the franchise contract and more. Several states also require registering your FDD with the state.

 

Franchise developer

 

Franchisee training and support materials are key to a successful franchise system. (If franchisees fail, it hurts your brand image—and your profits.) A franchise developer can help you create training materials, operations manuals, company policies and more.

 

Franchise broker/consultant

 

As a franchisor, you’ll need to market your business both to consumers and to prospective franchisees. A franchise broker (sometimes called a franchise consultant) can help with the latter. Brokers match franchisees with franchises and receive a commission from the franchisor. Franchise consultants do the same but are paid a flat fee by the prospective franchisee. Since strict rules govern franchise sales, working with a broker or consultant can help your franchise grow with less effort on your part.

 

Franchising resources

 

For more information, visit:

 

Be sure to read this franchising advice from a serial entrepreneur.

 

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America.  

 

Read next:

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

I’m often asked, “what makes entrepreneurs different?” One factor is the ability to look at something and see the opportunity others often overlook.

 

That’s what sets Maddie Purcell, the founder of Portland, Maine-based Fyood Kitchen, apart. Like millions of Americans, Purcell was a big fan of Chopped, a mainstay on the Food Network. Chopped is a cooking competition show where contestants are given baskets of mystery ingredients and need to create a delicious dish on the spot.

 

Image result for Maddie Purcell

Purcell loved Chopped so much she played at home with her best friend. But, unlike millions of Americans, Purcell took that obsession and turned it into a business. Fyood Kitchen, launched in 2016, brings the Chopped experience to the masses. Fyood, Purcell says, “puts on outrageously fun, amateur, social cooking competitions.”

 

Purcell was recently recognized by SCORE and the SCORE Foundation as their Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What inspired you to start a business based on Chopped?

 

Maddie Purcell: I was stuck in an unfulfilling job and realized I wanted to run my own company. I made lists of potential problems I could solve looking for the right fit. I worked on another startup idea for six months. Then I took part in an informal Chopped-style competition in a friend’s professional kitchen and it was the most fun night I’d ever had. I knew I would pay to do that regularly and wanted to give people the opportunity to have this experience.

 

Lesonsky: How did you get started?

 

Purcell: I didn’t know how to start so I decided to host several cooking competitions in my apartment between friends to figure out some details, such as should there be judging? Could amateurs tackle real mystery baskets? What did a stocked pantry really need to include for maximum creativity?

 

I launched Fyood with a crowdfunding campaign which is a real rollercoaster of momentum swings. But, we surpassed my financial target, while creating a group of staunch supporters and generating marketing opportunities that proved crucial to our early success.

 

Lesonsky: How does Fyood work?

 

Purcell: Fyood’s competitions, which take about three hours, take place in a professional kitchen. We offer the ideal cooking experience—no rules, no chores, and tons of imagination. Each team gets a basket of mystery ingredients with four “must-use” foods and access to a fully stocked pantry. They have to create dishes (one sweet, one savory) without instructions or recipes.

 

Lesonsky: And how do people react?

 

Purcell: Over 90 percent of cooks make something they'd never attempted before, permanently expanding their culinary comfort zone.

 

But Fyood isn’t just a cooking competition. We’re a connection company that happens to be in a professional kitchen and includes a delicious meal. In our increasingly digital age, people are searching for a social experience that fully immerses them in the present and creates lasting memories. Fyood produces uniquely engaging events designed for collaboration, creativity and laughter.

 

Lesonsky: What were some lessons you learned as you built Fyood?

 

Purcell: I worked with several mentors in SCORE’s Portland office. They taught me to sell and helped me become more comfortable understanding the worth of our services rather than underselling myself or feeling guilty. And they helped me make connections I wouldn’t be able to access on my own.

 

Lesonsky: How is Fyood doing? What are your future plans?

 

Purcell: We’re growing. Fyood recently pivoted from regularly scheduled open events to focus on the demand for private group events, especially teambuilding, birthday and wedding parties.

 

Over the next year we're planning to triple our number of monthly events, hiring three additional team members, including an event manager, along the way. In preparation for this growth, we're currently focused on optimizing our existing systems as well as testing new marketing campaigns to make sure the folks who would have the most fun at Fyood are able to find us when they want to throw a creative cooking party.

 

Lesonsky: What are you most proud of?

 

Purcell: Several things. Our mystery baskets provide an innovative platform for ingredient producers (salsa, kombucha, veggies, sauces, chocolate, etc.) and consumers to meet each other, enabling us to promote our amazing local food ecosystem.

 

I’m proud we can give customers an incredible connection and creative opportunity—empowering and inspiring them and give my team the opportunity to create something awesome and do something that feels great for them.

 

And seeing folks come in unsure of their abilities to cook without a recipe and leave feeling like they’re conquered the experience is pretty magical.

 

Hear more small business owners tell their stories on the Bank of America Small Business Podcast.

 

*Photo from MaineBiz

 

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

At 13, Dave Lavalle realized he could combine his passion for woodworking with his desire to make money. That led to multiple businesses, from furniture making to lawn care to light remodeling, before Lavalle started Mr. Handyman in 1996 and franchised it in 2000. In 2004, he branched out yet again by launching Dryer Vent Wizard, which began franchising in 2006. The first company to focus solely on dryer vent cleaning and maintenance, Dryer Vent Wizard has grown to nearly 100 franchise locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. We talked to Lavalle about building a successful franchise operation. Next month, we’ll discuss (with Lavalle and others) how to franchise your business.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: How did you get the idea for Dryer Vent Wizard?

 

Dave Lavalle: While at Mr. Handyman, people would ask, “Hey, while you’re here, can you clean the dryer?” So there was an untapped need. I was educated by the consumer, which is how I approach all my businesses. [Listen to] what the customer is asking for. Find a need and fill it.

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Before I started the business, dryer vent cleaning and maintenance was being handled in a chaotic manner by many different services – from carpet cleaners to plumbers. I knew if I spent the time to develop the business model properly, follow the correct codes and develop technical processes and procedures, homeowners would benefit from a higher quality of service.

 

Q: How was franchising Dryer Vent Wizard different from your experience with Mr. Handyman 10 years earlier?

 

A: With Mr. Handyman, I didn’t recognize that it was a franchise opportunity until people kept asking, “Is this a franchise?” I worked [with Service Brands International] to franchise it, and we had to take every piece of the business and dissect, reengineer and systematize it.

 

With Dryer Vent Wizard, from the very beginning I expected it to be a franchise, so I systematized everything down to every product SKU and the tools we used.

 

Q: How do you develop a franchise system?

 

A: I looked at where my stumbling blocks were when I started the business. Look at what takes too much time for you [as an independent businessperson] or what was a challenge for you. That’s where you can assist the franchisee.

 

For example, [businesses] spend all this time and money on marketing, but sometimes a call comes in and they can’t answer the phone. So, I decided, we’ll answer the phone for the franchisees, we’ll schedule the [client appointments] for them. Sometimes it’s hard to recruit, so we have a recruitment program. Getting a new vehicle set up takes time, so we get it ready for them—tools, their name on the side, keys in the ignition.

 

If you don’t have any stumbling blocks, look at where the non-transferable skill sets are. Maybe you’re fantastic at spreadsheets or social media, but is the general populace good at those things? If not, provide support in those areas to make it easy for the franchisees to grow the business.

 

Q: How do you know if your business is franchisable?

 

A: Ask yourself:

 

  1. Does it have wide geographic appeal, or is it geographically specific? An igloo-building business only works in Alaska.
  2. Does it have a transferable skill set? In other words, can you teach the person down the street to do it?
  3. Does it have margin? You need [to provide enough] value to the consumer to create margin for the franchisor and the franchisee.

 

Q: What advice do you have for would-be franchisors?

 

A: I’m sure someone told Mailboxes Etc. and the UPS Store, “That business isn’t a good idea—we already have the Post Office.” But they added outstanding service to make it worth using them instead of the post office.

 

Don’t you dare believe anybody who tells you your idea isn’t good. Believe yourself, beta test everything, try it out, and look for opportunities to add value. Business is a set of challenges to overcome. You can look at it as a lemon or turn it to lemonade.

 

 

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

The power of women is changing the world. Throughout our culture, from the #metoo movement to the growing (and record) number of women running for office, women are flexing their power like never before.

 

Women-owned businesses have been growing steadily for the last 11 years (even during the recession). The number of women-owned businesses rose 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, according to a 2018 report on women-owned businesses from American Express, and now account for 40 percent of U.S. businesses. During that time, employment, revenues and new business starts all grew substantially faster for women-owned businesses than for businesses overall.

 

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Why is it so important to encourage the growth of women-owned businesses?

 

Despite their growing numbers, just 1.7 percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more. However, those businesses contribute a disproportionate share to the economy and to employment. In other words, the more the better!

 

When women-owned businesses reach $250,000 in revenues, growth in both employment and revenues begins to take off, according to the same report. Supporting businesses that are approaching the $250,000 threshold (or have just crossed it) can help increase the number of $1 million-plus women-owned businesses—and that benefits us all.

 

How can you support women in business?

 

Here are five things you can do to help other women-owned businesses—and your own.

 

1. Show support with your dollars. Seek out women-owned businesses to buy from. If you can’t find entrepreneurial sources for what you need, look for businesses that have women in top leadership positions and show real commitment to a more equitable workplace. Support them by buying from them, and encourage others to do so, too. 

 

2. Learn and share the history of women in business. Women business owners are sometimes treated like a recent development, but in fact, we’ve been contributing to America’s economy since our nation began. Consider Madame C.J. Walker. Born to freed slaves in 1867, she built a business that was valued at more than $1 million when she died in 1919—yet her story isn’t shared in most history books. Change that by learning about Walker and other groundbreaking women business owners and sharing their stories.

 

3. Take advantage of government programs. Linda McMahon, a successful entrepreneur in her own right as former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO, has long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. Now, as Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), McMahon is proud of the 109 Women’s Business Centers across the country, where women can get business training, advice and counseling, assistance competing for federal contracts, and access to credit and capital. Learn more about programs and assistance for women business owners from SBA. 

 

4. Are you just starting out in business? Get a boost for your startup from business incubators, accelerators and boot camps for women entrepreneurs.  (Here are six of the top programs to check out.)

 

5. Are you a successful woman business owner? Give back to other women entrepreneurs by mentoring a startup entrepreneur. Become a SCORE volunteer and mentor other business owners, or contact your nearest Small Business Development Center to see if they need help providing advice and consulting to small business owners.

 

As women, we’re stronger when we work together. Reach out to give to other women and get help from them in return. That’s the real power of women in small business. 

 

     Read next:

               Check out our Spotlight on Women Entrepreneurs article collection.

 

 

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

It amazes me that in my lifetime—only 30 years ago—women business owners needed a male co-signer to get a business loan. In 1988, the Women’s Business Ownership Act helped open up access to capital for women entrepreneurs by prohibiting sex-based discrimination in lending.

 

A lot has changed for women entrepreneurs in the last 30 years. In fact, a lot has changed just in the past decade. The overwhelming majority of women entrepreneurs surveyed in the 2018 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight believe access to capital for women business owners has improved in the past 10 years.

 

But, there’s still a long way to go. Although 84 percent of women say their access to capital has improved in the past decade, 68 percent say it was more difficult for them to get financing compared to male business owners they know.

 

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However, women entrepreneurs aren’t letting this challenge hold them back. Here’s what the survey found:

 

Women entrepreneurs are confident

 

Women business owners are increasingly confident, both about their own businesses and about the economy in general. Economic optimism hit a two-year high in this third year of the survey: 48 percent of the women believe the national economy will improve in the next 12 months and 49 percent think their local economies will improve as well.

 

The women entrepreneurs surveyed are even more confident about their own businesses’ economic outlook. Some 58 percent expect revenues to increase in the coming year, and 21 percent plan to hire in that time period. In addition, 56 percent plan to expand and grow their businesses over the next five years.

 

Women entrepreneurs are taking the lead in technology

 

Contrary to stereotypes, the women business owners in the survey are embracing digital transformation as a means of growing their companies. Women entrepreneurs are more likely than men to use mobile devices for complex business tasks, such as financial transactions, hiring and social media updates. They’re also more likely than men to accept mobile payments from customers, issue refunds to customers on mobile devices, or pay employees via mobile transactions.

 

This willingness to implement new technology isn’t surprising considering that over three-fourths of women entrepreneurs believe the success of their business depends on continuing innovation. Overall, 42 percent of women surveyed say their businesses are currently either using or exploring at least one advanced technology, including the Internet of Things, data analytics, 3D printing or virtual reality.

 

What’s keeping women entrepreneurs up at night?

 

Despite their positive outlook and enthusiastic approach to technology, there are quite a few areas women business owners are more concerned about than last year.

 

  • 78 percent are concerned about healthcare costs, up from 62 percent last year.
  • 55 percent are concerned about the strength of the U.S. dollar, vs. 44 percent in 2017.
  • 52 percent are concerned about interest rates, compared to 39 percent last year.
  • 37 percent are concerned about the availability of credit, up from 29 percent in 2017.

 

How to close the gender financing gap

 

The survey asked women entrepreneurs who believe there is a gender gap in access to capital what they believed would make the biggest difference in closing the gap. The majority (42 percent) believe gender-blind financing would have the greatest impact.

 

Just 4 percent think angel investors and venture capitalists would make a difference. (In fact, the National Women’s Business Council notes research has shown that even women investors and venture capitalists tend to be biased in favor of male business owners.)

 

What’s the solution to enhanced access to capital? Bank of America is doing its part: Since 2014, its loaned over $35 million to more than 1,700 women business owners through the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program.

 

I’ve been privileged to have a ringside seat during the rise of entrepreneurial women these past decades—and maybe played a little part in that transformation. I’ve seen so many significant changes and have no doubt women entrepreneurs will continue the progress we’ve all made.

 

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

For women business owners, there’s strength in numbers.

 

Networking with other women entrepreneurs can inspire and energize you, help you solve business problems, and open up new channels for selling your products or services.

As a busy business owner, however, you can’t join every business organization. You’ve got to pick the ones that will provide the most benefits for your business. Here are six worthy women’s organizations to consider joining.

 

1.  National Association of Women Business Owners

 

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One of the earliest associations for women entrepreneurs, NAWBO was founded in 1975 and now represents more than 10 million women business owners, making it the largest dues-paying organization for women business owners. It’s headquartered in Washington, D.C., and regularly advocates for women business owners’ interests on Capitol Hill. NAWBO welcomes women entrepreneurs in all sectors, with businesses of all sizes and stages of development. If there is not a local chapter in your area, you can become part of NAWBO-Virtual to network with others online. Memberships, available at different levels, offer benefits such as leadership development, networking opportunities, and access to resources, online training sessions, events and more.

 

                    RELATED CONTENT: Read about NAWBO CEO, Jen Earle

 

2.  American Business Women’s Association

 

ABWA brings together business and professional women in all industries, including both entrepreneurs and employees, to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally. Launched in 1949, this organization hosts the National Women’s Leadership Conference every year. Members meet monthly at more than 450 Chapters and Express Networks across the country to share their ideas, challenges, experiences, products and services with each other. Get a look at a local ABWA meeting.

 

3. National Association for Female Executives

 

Founded in 1972, the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) is an association for women professionals, executives, business owners and others. It has chapters in 15 states. Members gain access to networking opportunities, business education and resources through the organization’s local networks. NAFE also sponsors an annual National Conference and periodic Breakfast Club events in cities nationwide.

 

4.  WITI

 

If you're a woman business owner in the technology field, you know how lonely it can be. WITI can help. This women’s organization was founded in 1989 to help women advance in technology by providing access to—and support from—other professional women in technology. Today, WITI is a global network with over 2 million members, including business owners, employees and academics, who come from all sectors of technology. Members enjoy programs and partnerships that provide connections, resources, opportunities and a supportive environment.

 

5. Ellevate Network

 

This global professional network of women is committed to elevating each other through education, inspiration and opportunity. Ellevate Network offers four different types of membership. Innovator memberships are focused on starting and growing businesses, while the other memberships are targeted to professional women in the workforce. If you’re interested in joining but want to get a feel for the organization first, check out one of the many Ellevate chapters worldwide to see if any of their upcoming events are open to nonmembers.

 

6. Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)

 

Do you have a passion for the issues affecting women business owners in America? Then WIPP could be for you. This national nonpartisan organization advocates on behalf of women entrepreneurs with the goal of creating economic opportunities for women and having an impact on public policy. WIPP’s members run the political gamut from Republicans and Democrats to Independents and more. WIPP regularly surveys members about their biggest concerns, from healthcare and taxes to capital access, and then takes their concerns to Capitol Hill. The group provides members with benefits such as advocacy training, assistance getting federal contracts, educational opportunities and access to events.

Read next:
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
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

Women’s Equality Day, August 26, celebrates the day in 1921 the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote became part of the United States Constitution. Just as voting was once reserved for men, for a long-time business boot camps and startup accelerators were (if not exactly reserved for men) definitely male-dominated.

 

But that’s changing, and more business boot camps and accelerators are seeking diversity among their participants. Still, there can be something special about learning along with other women who know what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur. That’s why in honor of Women's Equality Day, we’re highlighting six business boot camps, startup accelerators and leadership training programs that are great for women.

 

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Springboard

 

Since 2000, Springboard has helped more than 674 women-led companies grow by leveraging its global community of innovators, influencers and investors. With a goal to help entrepreneurs build technology-focused companies, Springboard invites participating women to an intensive boot camp where they work on the content and delivery of their company presentation to investors. After the boot camp, companies are assessed and assigned a personal advisory team of experts who provide input on business strategy and open doors to relevant connections and opportunities.

 

Springboard also hosts several “Dolphin Tank” events throughout the year. These programs are “helpful feedback-driven pitch sessions” where women can get constructive insight from experts about their ideas. Unlike shark tanks, Dolphin Tanks focus on collaboration, not competition, and the expert panel is there to offer advice and connections to “enable entrepreneurs to overcome their challenges and capitalize on their opportunities.”

 

Reboot

 

Reboot is designed to help business owners and businesspeople reboot their leadership skills. The company offers coaching, 360-degree performance reviews, boot camps, co-founder boot camps, peer groups, internal trainings and more.

 

This year, for the first time, Reboot will be holding a Women’s Bootcamp for female founders, CEOs, executives and VPs. The event promises a “rigorous weekend of practical skills, radical self-inquiry and peer support” at the Reboot Retreat Center in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Women’s Startup Lab

 

In the past four years, this leading accelerator for female founders has graduated more than 100 alumnae who have cumulatively raised over $50 million in financing. The 12-month program includes spending two weeks in residence in Silicon Valley, where the women participate in intensive small-group workshops. Post-accelerator, participants receive monthly coaching calls, access to exclusive investor events and workshops, and more.

 

EBW2020

 

EBW2020 (Empowering a Billion Women by 2020) is a global community of businesswomen dedicated to elevating women and democratizing access to capital for women all over the world. EPW2020’s goal is to “empower and enable women by connecting them to opportunities, funding sources, digital tools, financial planning, leadership skills, and a safe place to develop a stronger business acumen.”

 

There are monthly trainings (online and off), individual EPW chapters, training to help prepare you for outside investors, accelerator events and an annual Summit, to be held in November.

 

Change Catalyst

 

While Change Catalyst is not just for women, this organization, founded by a white woman and an African-American man, focuses on increasing inclusivity in technology. The Change Catalyst Startup Fellows Program provides selected early stage entrepreneurs with funding opportunities, introductions to key investors, mentorship, an educational curriculum, networking opportunities and more.

 

Mergelane

 

After several years of running successful accelerators for women entrepreneurs, Mergelane is changing strategies this year. The investment firm focused on women-led companies is combining the best aspects of venture funding and accelerators in its “Funderator.”

The eight-day intensive session is designed to recruit, screen and accelerate the best startups in which to invest. The first three days consist of Conscious Leadership training; the next five consist of feedback from their mentor network, the MergeLane team and the program’s alumni network. Participating startups must have at least one woman in a leadership position.

 

 

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

As we pass the halfway mark of 2018, there are numerous reports saying small business owners are optimistic. A few months ago I noted the Spring 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report showed some of the highest levels of optimism among U.S. entrepreneurs since the survey began in 2012.

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But small business owners had some concerns as well, primarily the cost of healthcare, higher interest rates and consumer spending.

So, what is the state of the U.S. small business economy these days? I put that question (and a few others) to Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) last month, and a mega-successful entrepreneur in her own right.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: What’s the state of our small business economy these days?

 

Linda McMahon: There’s a feeling of optimism, confidence and enthusiasm among small business owners. They’re excited about the tax cuts, rollback of regulations and launch of association health plans (which will become more accessible on September 1st). [There’s more about association health plans here.]

 

Lesonsky: What’s the environment for getting a small biz loan now?

 

McMahon: With less regulation, it’s possible for the SBA, conventional lending banks, community banks and credit unions to go back to kind of lending they did. The SBA is guaranteeing more loans.

 

 

Lesonsky: You personally have long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. What  are some of the challenges we face in trying to level the playing field for fair and equal access to credit? (McMahon cofounded Women’s Leadership Live in 2016.)

 

 

McMahon: There are many women’s organizations giving support to women, to help them be more confident. And there are now 109 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) across the country, where women can get expert advice from women—and men—about what they need to do. Some of the greatest help women can get is to help them develop a good pitch.

 

The SBA, SCORE, the SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) and WBCs are here to help women walk through the paces, and to advocate for them. And the SBIC [Small Business Investment Company, which is licensed by the SBA to invest in small businesses] is helping women get access to venture capital.

 

Lesonsky: What do we need to do in order to ensure that every small business owner has equal and fair access?

 

McMahon: We need to continue to break down barriers. Women are resilient and are starting more businesses. We need to help women get more loans and seed capital. We are thrilled to see more traditional lending coming from banks.

 

Lesonsky: You are a big believer in the value of technology and have said in previous interviews that small business entrepreneurs should embrace technology to remain competitive. I am always surprised by the fact nearly half of small businesses don’t have websites.

 

McMahon: I don’t know how you get started without having a website. It gives you a head up. Consumers are Googling to find out where businesses are and [what they do]. If you need to, go to your local SBDC or SCORE office to help you develop a website. It’s all free.

 

Lesonsky: How can we encourage more startups?

 

McMahon: We had a big recession and it takes recovery time to come back. But people are more confident and optimistic now, so more businesses will be starting.

 

I’m visiting all 68 SBA district offices to make sure the SBA is not the best kept secret in the country. [I met McMahon as she visited the Santa Ana (CA) district, her 49thtrip to a district since she began serving her term.] Small businesses should know about all the resources we have to help them start and grow. They should check us out at SBA.gov.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva 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

One of the toughest aspects of being a small business owner is the isolation. Next time you feel like there’s no one you can turn to for advice, check out one of these organizations. They’re some of the best places I know to get help achieving your entrepreneurial goals.

 

Small Business Administration (SBA)

This federal agency provides access to capital, entrepreneurial development and training, assistance with federal contracting and more. Through its resource partner organizations, including SCORE, the SBDC Network, Women's Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, the SBA helps entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses. There’s also an online Learning Center where you can take entrepreneurial education courses[GK1] .

 

    Related Content: SBA Loans & Financing from Bank of America

 

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SCORE

With more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters nationwide, SCORE is the country’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 10 million entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. SCORE offers both in-person and online mentoring by current and former business owners and executives. Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of free educational resources including live and on-demand webinars, interactive online training courses, in-person local workshops, and free business tools.

 

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)

SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners with free business consulting and low-cost training services including business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, market research help and more. There are hundreds of SBDC locations nationwide, typically located on college and university campuses.

 

Women’s Business Centers (WBC)

There are more than 100 Women’s Business Centers throughout the United States and its territories seek to level the playing field for women business owners. Women can receive training and counseling on a wide range of topics to help them overcome the unique obstacles they face in starting and growing their businesses.

 

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC)

Transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses who want to start, buy or grow a business should check out the Veterans Business Outreach Centers. Located nationwide, the offices provide transition assistance programs including Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot; resource referrals; and business development assistance such as training, counseling and mentoring.

 

National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

Founded in 1975, the National Association of Women Business Owners represents over 10 million women-owned businesses nationwide. With chapters across the country and members from all industries, NAWBO works to strengthen the wealth-creating capacity of its members and promote economic development. Members benefit from a library of resources; networking opportunities; and the NAWBO Institute Virtual Platform, which facilitates best practice sharing, communication and education[GK2] .

 

     Related Content: Learn about Bank of America's partnership with NAWBO

 

The National Minority Business Council (NMBC)

The NMBC offers minority business people business assistance, educational opportunities, seminars, purchasing exchanges, mentoring, business listings, procurement-related events and opportunities, and more.

 

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC)

The largest black business association in the world, the National Black Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African-American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity. It has more than 200 chapters in 40 states and 50 countries. Members include businesses of every size and industry, state and local chambers of commerce, and trade and professional associations. Benefits for members include corporate and federal procurement sessions, networking opportunities, publications, access to international trade missions, and an annual convention.

 

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)

This elite organization is open to owners, founders or majority stakeholders of businesses earning at least $1 million in the most recent fiscal year. With 173 chapter locations in 54 countries and more than 12,000 members, Entrepreneurs’ Organization promotes both global and local networking. Members have access to executive education and mentorship programs, local, regional and global events, and virtual learning tools.

 

With so many entrepreneurial assistance organizations out there, there’s sure to be one (or a few) that appeal to you. Have you worked with any of these organizations? What did you think?

 

*(Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my business.)

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva 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

Successful entrepreneurs know that the ability to adapt to challenges is key to their success. There may be no better example of successfully pivoting your business than that of my friends, Wally and Adam Rizza.

 

It started in 1995, when a branch from my next-door neighbor’s tree broke my window. The family sent one of their sons, Wally Rizza, a quiet 20-year-old, to do the repairs.

Wally asked what I did. I told him I was the editor of Entrepreneur magazine. Several weeks later, Wally asked me to help him apply to open a kiosk selling sunglasses at one of the country’s first entertailment (yes, that’s what they called it) complexes, the Irvine Spectrum, in Irvine, Calif. 29349553_s.jpg

 

By November 1995, he’d started a company, Sunscape, and opened that kiosk. A week later, Wally’s 15-year-old brother, Adam, started working there—for free. Within the month, Wally made the high schooler a partner. A pattern emerged: Wally scouted new locations and opportunities, and Adam managed the kiosks.

 

In just a few years, they had 23 kiosks across Southern California, at hot spots like Universal City and Downtown Disney. Sales were good; profits were so-so. One reason: Wally was buying products from middlemen in Los Angeles. I told him they’d never make real money unless they went to China to buy direct.

 

Despite having no connections and little access to information (this was early in the age of the internet), Wally headed to an eyewear trade show in Hong Kong, where he heard about Wenzhou, an “eyewear town” in China. He immediately headed there, checked into an “Americanized” hotel, where he met Sunny, whose job entailed hanging out in hotel lobbies, waiting for entrepreneurs to check in. Sunny connected him to a factory where Sunscape still does business today.

 

“China is [now] much easier for competitors to access,” Adam says, recalling that initial journey. “Anyone can be an importer these days. You don’t even need to go to China. You can find suppliers online, using resources like Alibaba.com.”

 

From Retail to Wholesale

Importing directly from China improved Sunscape’s margins and profits. Then came 9/11. As the retail market started collapsing, the brothers realized they had to pivot to survive, and they began exploring wholesaling.

 

One day in 2002, the three of us visited a local mall to scope out stores catering to the junior market. “You need to be in every one of these stores,” I told them. “I have no idea how to make that happen, but you need to figure it out.”

 

They met a broker specializing in junior chains, and she got them into Claire’s, a store for tweens and teens. Other clients quickly followed, including well-known brands such as Urban Outfitters, Limited Too (now Justice), and Hot Topic. Directing all their efforts towards wholesaling fashion-forward, affordable sunglasses for teenagers, Wally, now chairman, and Adam, now president, got their products into Tilly’s, PacSun, and Nordstrom.

 

A Vision for Success

In 2008, the Great Recession created another speed bump: Teens weren’t spending as much. Pivoting yet again, the Rizzas targeted the military, getting their products on PX bases around the world. They also realized that while fashion sunglasses are never a necessity, reading glasses are. In 2012, they began targeting the 40+ market, selling readers into mass market stores like CVS and to the U.S. military.

 

In 2013, Adam said, “We realized we needed to diversify and added tech accessories, such as phone cases, cables and chargers to our merchandise mix.” But the following year, just as the tech side of the business was taking off, a longshoremen’s strike shut down Los Angeles Harbor. Sunscape products sat on ships with no personnel to unload them. The strike lasted through the lucrative holiday shopping season, preventing Sunscape from delivering $500,000 worth of seasonal merchandise. They later had to offload the goods at deep discounts.

 

For a small company, losing a half million dollars in sales is devastating—and demoralizing. But you have to soldier on. For 2018, their initial goals were to focus on the B2B market, and sell to club stores like Costco. But, as true entrepreneurs, Adam says, “We realized we needed to pivot again. When you max out your distribution channels, you need to create new ones.”

 

Instead of abandoning the B2C market, they embraced it, launching Sunbox, a “sunscription” company, where consumers can subscribe and get a reusable box of sunglasses or readers delivered monthly. “As the population ages,” Adam says, “readers will become a bigger part of the business.”

 

Eyes on the Horizon

Although they ship 3 – 5 million units a year, Adam says, “that’s still not enough.” For years their online presence has been minimal. Though Sunscape has an active Instagram account, they plan to build a better website and create a presence on Amazon. 

 

Though he’s a Gen X’er, the 38-year-old single dad thinks like a millennial. Social causes are important to him. “My long-term goal is to build a solid brand and give back to the community. I plan to work half my life and spend the rest giving back.”

 

Despite the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial life, Adam says, he wouldn’t change a thing. “There’s nothing more exciting than being an entrepreneur,” he says. “As Reid Hoffman [cofounder of LinkedIn] says, ‘We jump off a cliff, and build a plane as we’re falling.’ What could be better than that?”

 

Read more interviews of small business owners:

NAWBO CEO, Jen Earle, Leads the Way to a New Era of Opportunity for Women Business Owners

6 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the NFL’s First Female Coach

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva 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. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Is your business in an area that attracts a lot of summer tourists? Lodging and car services aren’t the only businesses that can benefit from tourism. Almost any entrepreneur can market to out-of-town vacationers—the secret is advance planning. Here are eight steps to prepare your business for a profitable tourist season.

 

1. Create a forecast. Review last tourist season’s sales, and research economic and tourism trends in your area – among your target tourists. For example, the U.S. Travel Association’s monthly U.S. Travel Outlook says the majority of travelers looking for hotels are planning to stay in the Southeast and West — good news if your business is in Florida or California. If your region typically attracts foreign tourists, a favorable exchange rate for them could mean more visitors for you. With these estimates in hand, you’ll be better able to budget and plan for tourist season. 37517958_s.jpg

 

2. Schedule staffing. When targeting tourists as customers, you only have one chance to make a good impression. If you expect to be busier than normal during tourist season, be sure to plan for adequate staff—or expect tourists to head for your competitors instead. Start advertising for temporary tourist season hires, or work with a temporary staffing agency to get staff on board and up-to-speed before the season hits in earnest.

 

3. Plan your marketing campaign. Based on your target customers, identify the best places to put your marketing dollars, and create a detailed marketing calendar. Start with monthly activities, and then break it down into weekly and daily activities (such as number of social media posts per day). This calendar will ensure you don’t miss any opportunities to promote your company, no matter how hectic business gets.

 

4. Get social. Engage with social media travel influencers that your target tourists follow. If they share or retweet your social media posts, their audience just might check you out. Writing or sharing blog posts about fun things to do in your city is another great way to attract travelers’ attention.

 

Related: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Social Media

 

5. Review your reviews. Online ratings and reviews are major factors in tourists' decisions. If your business is listed on Yelp, TripAdvisor or local review sites, check your reviews to make sure they’re current, and respond to any poor reviews. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge positive reviews, as well. If you’re not on these sites, now is the time to get listed and encourage reviews from regular customers to build your reputation among travelers.

 

Related: How to Boost Positive Online Reviews for Your Business – And Deal with Those Pesky Bad Ones

 

6. Update your local search listings, website and online presence. What’s the first thing you do when you visit a new city? Chances are you grab your smartphone to look up the best restaurants, bars, tourist sites and stores. Make sure your business is listed on local search directories, with current and accurate information. Add any information that will especially appeal to tourists, such as local menu specialties at your restaurant, or guided tours of local sites. Using location-related keywords in your website content, online ads and search listings helps your business show up in online searches.

 

Related: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)

 

7. Check the calendar. Do big events in your area draw lots of tourists? Check a calendar of upcoming events and reach out to the organizers to see how you can get involved. Whether you sell products at a booth, sponsor the event or give out free samples, you’ll find plenty of ways to promote your business.

 

8. Partner up. Joining forces with other businesses that benefit from the tourist season, such as hotels, restaurants, shuttle services or guided tours, exposes your business to their tourist customers as well. Create a mutually beneficial marketing plan that you and your partner businesses can employ to boost everyone’s sales.

 

Taking these steps now will hopefully lead to a more profitable tourist season this summer. Do you own a retail business? Check out my top hacks for retailers to profit from summer tourists.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva 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. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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