Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Lattes and Loans: Starbucks Partnering with OFN to Provide Small Business Financing

October 24, 2011 1 comment

Earlier this month, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared his plan to solicit donations from Starbucks customers to help fund small businesses in a joint program with the Opportunity Finance Network called Create Jobs for USA. Starting November 1, for every $5 donated at a Starbucks (roughly the cost of a second grande non-fat Pumpkin Spice Latte), you can walk out with a cool wristband and the satisfaction of helping fund Main Street. Starbucks has already made a $5 million donation, which, coincidentally, would yield enough wristbands for each QuickBooks user out there.

Important to point out is the subtle note that verifies each wristband is made in the USA!

Small businesses that have not been able to obtain a loan through conventional banking methods may be eligible to receive a Starbucks loan. Whether you’re just starting up or looking to expand,  there is one basic requirement: proof that jobs will be created (temporary or permanent) by the business seeking the loan. According to this article, one new job will be created for every $3,000 donated to the program. If you think your business qualifies, you can start the process by visiting the OFN Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Finder. (Very easy to use – a quick search yielded two in my community).

While Starbucks is the latest to receive kudos for helping out the little guy, they’re certainly not the first. The Sam Adams brewery has provided small business loans and free business education seminars to the community since April, although clearly an additional requirement to receiving a Sam Adams loan is being at least 21 years of age (the website prompts you to verify your age twice before you can even get to the link provided above).

Regardless of your preference to fill your mugs with coffee vs. beer, I think we can all raise our glasses to these two companies and their positive steps towards investing back into entrepreneurship. Cheers until next week!

What other micro-lending ventures have you heard about? Leave a comment to share resources with other small business owners here. 


Wellness Benefits for Small Business

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

My day kicked off at 5:30am with a pot of coffee for breakfast, followed by an hour sitting at my desk trying to get through a mountain of personal e-mail. I then dealt with the strain of a 35 minute commute in pouring rain and low visibility, mildly less stressful than suffering through bumper to bumper  rush hour traffic. After 11 hours of additional sitting and exacerbating a case of computer vision syndrome that has developed over years of being glued to my monitor (only interrupted by re-fueling myself with a convenience lunch of champions: two slices of pizza and a bag of M&Ms), my conscience suggested I should make a stop at the gym. But after fighting through rainy, traffic-filled misery on my commute home, my exhaustion suggested otherwise. Over a microwave dinner, I consoled myself that the hard work and stress would pay off dividends when I can enjoy my retirement later in life.  But two additional hours remaining sedentary and reading e-mails delivered this ironic article: Study says women who sit all day put themselves at risk of premature death.

Small business owners across the country have all experienced days as I have described above. It is critical that we take a step back and consider how we can balance our goals and aspirations with maintaining our own wellness.

Wellness programs have been a fundamental component of benefits packages at many larger employers over the last few decades, but prohibitive costs have made these programs typically unavailable for smaller businesses. However, according to this recent article by National Underwriter, entrepreneurs can take heart in the fact that this trend is changing, due to two recent innovations in wellness programs.

1. Health insurers are increasingly providing robust wellness programs along with their health insurance. This integration provides a cost-effective method to distribute the wellness program to employers. In addition, education and enrollment efforts can be combined, minimizing the time commitment and reinforcing the close link between the programs.

2. Wellness providers have also developed screening methods that allow small employers to participate on a cost-effective basis. In addition to using on-site screening methods, the use of collection centers in alternate locations like grocery store pharmacies has decreased overall costs. Physician packets are also becoming increasingly popular.

For assistance in researching health insurance and wellness provider options that make sense for your small business, visit the insurance section of the office management section of our website. Then, be sure to get out of your chair and get some movement in your day!

The New Retiree – Small Business Ownership in Your Golden Years

As we continue to rebuild our nest eggs from the market crash of 2008, sources of retirement income are receiving heavy attention in the media. There are a few common strategies most individuals are employing to see them through retirement – saving more in their employer-sponsored plans or via IRAs, taking more risk in their investment portfolios, tapping in to home equity, and, of course, delaying full retirement to take advantage of more time with a steady income and greater Social Security Benefits.

Perhaps, if you have crunched the numbers with your financial advisor and determine that a part-time income may be sufficient, an attractive option may be to start your own sole proprietorship or LLC. As this article mentions, “Many people use retirement to fulfill lifelong dreams that weren’t financially practical when they were younger. Since they only need a part-time income now, a second, lower-paying career or hobby business is possible.” Whether you want to create or consult, chances are your years of experience doing something you love may prove to be valuable to your community.

By becoming your own employer, you also can help your income keep pace with inflation by setting your own wages. (More on strategies for keeping up with inflation in retirement here). Just be sure to do the right research to make sure your rates are market competitive. Conduct an online search and call a few of your potential competitors to find out what the going rates are.

All small businesses, however, require some form of investment. Keep a realistic picture of start-up costs before jumping into anything – many businesses can be started from home with a computer and a reliable internet connection. Price out what else you might need to keep going – advertising, web hosting, and telephone bills are a few basic business expenses to keep in mind.

The right questions to ask yourself before starting any business venture can be found here. Take the time to print out the page and write down your answers to those questions to create a basic business plan. Gather feedback from many sources on your plan, including trusted professionals, friends, and family members. Remember, starting a business in retirement is not the right solution for everyone. With proper research and planning, it can be just one of many tools to help diversify your sources of income in retirement.

See More “Green” this St. Patrick’s Day

March 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Savvy entrepreneurs are always looking for creative ways to put a little extra “green” back into their business, and NOT in the form of shamrocks and leprechauns. Fortunately, small business owners don’t need the luck of the Irish to put cash back into their pockets. If you’re looking for suggestions on how to help your business save more money, you’ve come to the right place – check out these links and tips for universal solutions on reducing expenses.

1. QuickBooks can help your business run more efficiently. From balance sheets to income statements and beyond, you can run a variety of reports to keep you informed on the general health of your business. It can help you get paid more quickly, allowing you to e-mail invoices directly from QuickBooks. You needn’t even pay full price for these efficiency gains; check out our website for savings of up to 20% on software and 25% on supplies!

2. Cut back on payroll tax dollars with a Do-It-Yourself Cafeteria Plan. Implementing these plans used to be costly, but now you can set one up yourself for very little and begin saving thousands of dollars on payroll taxes, plus get a productivity boost from your grateful employees!

3. Conduct a periodic review of employee business expenses. Are there good, established procedures for reimbursing employee expenses? Check this list compared to your procedures and be sure to address any gaps that might be costing you extra.

4. Save time and valuable office space by reducing clutter and going paperless. Electronic document management systems are simple to set up (all you need is a scanner to get started) and easy to integrate with all common business software such as QuickBooks and Microsoft Office.

By implementing the tips and suggestions above, you may well be on your way to saving enough money to be able to throw your own St. Patrick’s Day parade!