Personal Money


Based on the fast and furious pace of tax scams this month, you'd think it was high tax season instead of summer.

For the second time in just more than a week, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a new tax scam alert. (In case you missed it, the pervasive tax telephone scam was recently tweaked.)

Phishing scam hook keyboard

This latest scam warning is for tax professionals, who are receiving phishing emails purportedly from a tax software education provider. The fake communication asks for the tax preparers' help in repairing a failure in the message sender's sham database.

To that fake end, the cyber crooks want the tax pros to send them what the IRS describes as an unusual amount of sensitive preparer data.

Unknown origin, but typical data sought: The IRS is still investigating this new phishing scam, which uses the name of a real U.S.-based preparer education firm. (The IRS did not provide the company's name in issuing its warning to tax pros.)

So far, the email's origin is unknown. It could be from cyber criminals operating within the U.S. or abroad.

Regardless of the source, the goal is the same as all tax identity theft schemes, to get enough personal info to successfully file fake tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds.

Here's the fake email's text that is showing up in tax pros' in-boxes:

In our database, there is a failure, we need your information about your account.

In addition, we need a photo of the driver's license, send all the data to the letter. Please do it as soon as possible, this will help us to revive the account.

*Company Name *

*EServices Username *

*EServices Password *

*EServices Pin *

*CAF number*

*Answers to a secret question*

*EIN Number *

*Business Name

*Owner/Principal Name *

*Owner/Principal DOB *

*Owner/Principal SSN *

*Prior Years AGI

Mother's Maiden Name

Obviously, if the con artists get the requested info — particularly tax pros' e-Services credentials such as an Electronic Filing Information Number (EFIN), Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and Centralized Authorization File (CAF) number — the crooks will have a field day filing fake 1040s.

Tax pros now preferred by ID thieves: Since the IRS and its Security Summit partners have been increasingly successful in stemming individual taxpayer scams, tax pros are now the preferred target of identity thieves.

But why would any tax pro in this day and age fall for such a request?

Some folks are just naturally trusting. Others see a message from what appears to be a company they've worked with for years and want to help.


Stop being so cooperative and helpful. Stop trusting any emails asking for your or clients' personal information.

Just stop. Sadly, the time of being a nice guy or gal tax preparer has passed.

Remember, legitimate businesses and organizations never ask tax professionals for usernames, passwords or sensitive data via email. Even if you are asked, never provide such sensitive information via email.

All this tax pro tax scam advice leads to this week's By the Numbers figure: 0. As in nada, nil, zilch, zero.

As in zero tolerance for any questionable calls or emails or even snail mailed correspondence seeking personal or professional tax-related info.

Recovery steps if scammed: If, however, the worst does happen and you, a tax professional, do fall victim to this or other tax scam emails, forward a copy to [email protected].

If you disclosed any credential information, contact the e-Services Help Desk to reset your password.

And if you disclosed information and taxpayer data was stolen, contact your local stakeholder liaison.

You also might find these items of interest:




[Author: skbell1]


by Jessica Thiefels, owner of Honest Body Fitness

Wow, your first office — that’s exciting! Now comes the work of buying what you need, setting up the space, and deciding what you need and what you can get away with adding later on.

As you navigate the world of being a business owner with an office space, keep these tips in mind – they’ll help you save money, boost security, prepare for your first few employees and more:

Assess the Cost.

While you’ve likely already done some budget work to determine what you can afford for your monthly rent, you should also consider the price of heating, air and utilities, a cleaning service and your Internet Service Provider.

According to a survey from Priceonomics, the median price of office space among startups is $6,100. Remember, however, that the location can influence the price. While you may have always dreamed of having an office overlooking the water, this type of office space will be much more expensive than one without the ocean or lake view. “You may have to make some compromises here, taking into consideration that you will probably be competing with other employers in the area” according to Lucy Wayment of “An ideal situation is to find a central location that’s easy to commute to.”

Determine the Essentials.

Setting up your own space is exciting, you get to call the shots and decide what goes where. As a result, it’s easy to overspend on furniture and office supplies. To avoid spending too much, make a list of the essential items you need. This should include space for employees (desk and chairs), computers, software, printers, a phone system, mailing materials, and basic office supplies like stationery, staplers, etc.

You may want to hang artwork or outfit your office with colorful furniture, but are these really must-have items, right now? You can always add more to boost your office aesthetic, but be smart and start with the essentials.

Check for Deals on Tech.

Technology items like computers, printers and phone systems can be costly. While these are necessary items to run your business, they don’t need to be purchased at full price. If you plan ahead and do your research, you can shop around for deals instead of settling for the first price you see. Here are a few ways to find savings:

  • Check online for promo codes and coupons: “Online discounts are most valuable in the technology sector, with larger discounts available the higher the price tag. The best coupon savings can be made on laptops and PC’s; with a small amount of research you can save around 10% on the original price,” advises marco Piu, General Manager of com.
  • Wholesale: When buying bulk, wholesale is always a good way to go. You can often get a much better per-unit price that leads to significant cost savings.
  • Used: Many computer repair shops and tech store sell used products at a steep discount. There are many online retailers that sell used tech products as well as some major chains, like Amazon and Best Buy. Always double check that the products you want to buy are Certified Pre-Owned to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product.
Choose Your Floor Plan.

The size of your space will influence your floor plan, and the way you setup your office can have a significant impact on how your team performs. First, remember to determine your floor plan before you buy furniture so you will know exactly what you need. Fit Small Business suggests three different floor plan types:

  • An Open Plan makes the most of space, but at the expense of privacy and personal storage.
  • A Closed Plan offers more personal space, but is less collaborative and won’t fit as many seats.
  • A Modular Workstation Plan (or Cluster Workstation) is a compromise between these two setups. With desks grouped in small clusters, employees get more privacy, yet can still collaborate amongst their group.
Don’t Pinch Pennies for IT.

While most of these tips have been about saving money, one place where you don’t want to cut corners is with your Internet and IT services. You need a safe, secure network to run your business and interact with clients and customers and you need to protect your customers’ information as well.

“Smaller companies are attractive because they tend to have weaker online security,” according to John Brandon from Inc. “They’re also doing more business than ever online via cloud services that don’t use strong encryption technology. To a hacker, that translates into reams of sensitive data behind a door with an easy lock to pick.”

Take the guesswork out and hire an IT company. They can make sure everything is up and running properly and you will be able to contact them if anything goes wrong.

Install a Security System.

Now that we’ve talked about online security, don’t forget about office security. You need to take appropriate measures to protect your office space and employees. Install a wireless security system, if there’s not already one included with your office space.

Wireless systems are inexpensive and you can customize them to your needs. “Providing the same security as a professional alarm setup for a fraction of the price, a wireless alarm system can be added to as you see fit,” according to experts from The Home Security Superstore. “Mix and match components allow you to secure the doors, windows, gates, and entryways you’re most concerned about and to change your system when you need.”

With a wireless system, you don’t need to pay for installation or monthly service fees. It’s a great way to increase security in your office and protect your investment.

Don’t Forget About the Extras.

Now that you’ve taken care of the essentials, don’t forget about the extra items you need to make sure your employees are comfortable. Does your office space have a kitchen? If so, you’ll need a fridge, microwave and water cooler. Do you need a coffee pot? You may also want to stock your cabinets with some snacks. Again, these items aren’t essential, but they may come in handy when you’re putting in long hours at the office. Make sure you factor these in when you calculate your costs and budget.

Setting up an office space is exciting but it can also be overwhelming. If you make a plan, focus on the essentials and stick to your budget, you can reduce stress and create a successful space. Remember, you can always update your layout and add items; set your priorities and focus on the most important things, first.


Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels, owner of Honest Body Fitness, has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last six years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She’s worked for businesses both big and small, including a 12-person education startup and well-known organizations like and 

The giant e-commerce platform Alibaba and its charismatic founder, Jack Ma, have a plan to add a million U.S. jobs by enticing American companies to sell to China.

Small Business Trends talks about a new book to help you push through that barrier between prospective to actual entrepreneur. It's titled, "Daring & Disruptive: Unleashing the Entrepreneur," and according to SBT, it is probably your best bet. The book helps you understand how you can leverage your non-traditional path as an asset instead of an obstacle to entrepreneurship.
Go girl.
Read more ...

[Author: Laurel Delaney]

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books

Leadership is one of the most rewarding and most difficult aspects of business. When done right, it seems effortless. When done wrong, it can damage everything. Leadership, like everything else in your business, requires maintenance to be effective. Leaders need to evolve with their business and its current and future needs so a business can continue to run smoothly.

As the world becomes more complex and more unpredictable, it’s essential for leaders to prepare now. The 10 books in this list are designed to help current and aspiring leaders do just that. Each book is designed to push some aspect of leadership out of the “comfort zone” and into a more confident level of leadership as we head into a complex and unpredictable future.

10 Essential Reads on Disruptive Leadership 10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Why Simple WinsWhy Simple Wins by Lisa Bodell

Complexity is a fact of life for modern businesses, yet dealing with this complexity is something that many businesses don’t know how to handle well. Many businesses, in fact, end up in a financially and time-draining place known as the”complexity trap”.

Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap and Get to Work That Matters, by innovation expert Lisa Bodell, demonstrates why simplicity is the answer for breaking out of the “complexity trap”.

While many business leaders recognize they are stuck in mundane tasks and routines, few connect the dots between this inefficiency and an inability to innovate.

Why Simple Wins makes the connection and helps busy professionals find ways to prune productivity-wasters out of their schedules.

Bodell also emphasizes another key point. Simplicity is not a one-time action, it has to be a mindset.

Otherwise, the very gains from “cleaning up our to-do list” will come back to haunt us when we least expect it.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To ChangeInclusion by Jennifer Brown

Diversity is more than a workshop or a poster that you put on the wall of your HR department. It is necessary for your business to survive in the coming world of work to maintain its competitive advantage.

This is the point that Jennifer Brown urges readers to understand in her book Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change.

Brown’s book seeks to help readers gain a deeper understanding of what diversity is and leverage that understanding to build a more inclusive (and profitable) environment.

As Brown points out, management has often seen “diversity” as something “to do” rather than something that should be integrated into the entire fabric of a business.

Many organizations, however, are afraid or unsure of how to transition to and leverage a truly inclusive workforce. Inclusion shows business owners the steps they can take now to reach a more inclusive and profitable future later.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of SuccessPrimary Greatness by Steven Covey

What makes a person successful? In the late Stephen R Covey’s latest book, Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success, the answer lies inside of you.

To be more specific, it’s your primary greatness, a concept that is explored in the book collected from the vast collection of unpublished writing that Covey left with his unexpected passing.

The title comes from a message Covey passed on to his son about achieving success.

Covey contrasts two type of success in the book, primary and secondary greatness. Primary greatness is achievement which improve one’s internal self. Secondary greatness is achievement gained to improve one’s external self (like a trophy, Facebook Like, or paycheck).

He argues that primary greatness is, ultimately, a more reliable type of success than secondary greatness.

His book details why he believed so strongly in the concept of primary greatness and guides readers to their own primary greatness through the use of 12 core principles.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Worth Doing Wrong by Arnie Malham

Is building a work culture really worth the effort?

In Worth Doing Wrong: The Quest to Build a Culture That Rocks, the answer is a resounding yes. Work culture, like other areas involving the so-called “soft skills”, is something that many business leaders are now starting to pay attention to.

With this renewed interest, business owners are becoming more proactive about their role (and the role of others) in the company culture.

Culture, however, according to Malham is more important than feel-good talks and casual Fridays. It’s even more crucial than the execution or even the business idea itself. Why? Culture is the way that your business implements a strategy.

Culture is the environment where your ideas are born and developed. It is the internal and external distinction that separates companies from each other.

For those who believe in the power of workplace culture and want to leverage it to create a powerful business, Worth Doing Wrong offers a pathway through the fundamentals of doing just that.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - The Essence of LeanThe Essence of Lean by David Hinds Ph.D.

Because of its manufacturing roots, most professionals associate the principles of Lean with businesses — like an automotive company, motivated to get as much value out of their equipment as possible.

In The Essence of Lean: A Superior System of Management, however, that Lean can be applied to work environments that don’t involve a factory at all.

The Essence of Lean extracts the key principles of Lean management so readers can apply them to their small business, non-profits and governmental organizations.

Written especially for the non-manufacturing person who may not be familiar with the Lean process, The Essence of Lean, does more than just explain the principles of Lean to a new audience.

The book walks readers through creating a specific plan of action for integrating Lean in ways that decrease errors and increase efficiency. Businesses can improve overall ability to create more value for themselves, their customers, and their employees, with the expertise of a Lean master — and without having to worry about technical jargon.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - The Asymmetrical LeaderThe Asymmetrical Leader by Steve Knox

Leadership training often automatically assumes that leading is a game of mental balance. All you need to do is believe in and practice “x principle” to become a great leader.

The Asymmetrical Leader, written by business coach and author Steve Knox, challenges that assumption.

Leaders, Knox argues, need to be comfortable stepping out of their own heads and engaging with their hearts.

By leading with their minds and hearts, leaders can connect with their teams on a deeper and more authentic level. Leadership is a more dynamic process that embraces weaknesses as part of the leadership challenge rather than hiding from them.

In an effort to help entrepreneurs excel in this multi-dimensional form of leadership, The Asymmetrical Leader highlights five core competencies and helps readers leverage the potential power within those competencies.

Many of those core competencies, like communication, are practiced by leaders every day but Steve Knox demonstrates how these simple competencies can be transformed into a powerful legacy of leadership.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Speed by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Business leaders know that speed is a competitive asset. Maintaining speed while also maintaining quality is another issue altogether.

Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution helps leaders balance the need for quality and speed within their businesses so they can thrive in the fast-paced world of the 21st-century business.

In Speed, readers assess their organization’s current efficiency and help leaders outline a level of efficiency.

Using the book’s principles, readers can take a comprehensive look at everything in their businesses that could serve as a “speed bump” and identify strategies and recommendations for navigating around them.

To achieve a higher level of efficiency without losing quality, you need support from leaders and the workers who will carry it out.

Speed provides support for both sides of the spectrum in eight companion behaviors extracted from research on high-performing businesses and individuals.

Using the book’s insights, business owners can tailor and scale their plans for maintaining their “business awesome” while doing business at an unmatched pace.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Before I Was CEOBefore I Was CEO by Peter Vanham

Have you ever wondered what life was like for a high-profile CEO before the spotlight? You might hear a little of their story in their professional bio, but you may not get all of the tiny steps (or missteps) along the way.

In Before I Was CEO: Life Stories and Lessons from Leaders Before They Reached the Top, business journalist Peter Vanham shares in-depth interviews of twenty high-profile CEOs.

These CEOs come from a variety of industries ranging from brewing (Heineken) to non-profits (American Red Cross). They all, however, share the common trait of persistence and adaptation.

Vanham’s interviews focus on the path that these high-profile leaders took to get where they are. He groups these paths by themes including adversity, “breaking free” and “returning home” to reinforce the commonality and uniqueness of their path.

Following each collection of interviews, Before I Was CEO, extracts some memorable “wisdom nuggets” for readers to reflect on in their own path as current and future leaders.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Yoga for Leaders by Stefan HyttforsYoga for Leaders by Stefan Hyttfors

What does a busy leader preparing for an unpredictable future need? If you ask futurist and speaker Steffan Hyttfors, the answer is yoga.

This centuries-old philosophy, Hyttfors argues, offers a strategic mental framework for leading in a constantly changing future. His book Yoga For Leaders, however, doesn’t focus on standing on one leg or in a headstand pose. It focuses attention on a leader’s thoughts and actions.

Many leaders deal with the uncertainty of the future in two unproductive ways. They either plan excessively (to gain some sense of control) or they fail to plan. Both of these approaches are damaging to a business.

Yoga for Leaders argues that leaders need a more balanced approach.

To survive an unpredictable future, Hyttfors explains how leaders need awareness and agility. They need awareness of their current beliefs and mental agility to deal with events outside of their control. This balance of agility and awareness helps leaders stay centered on their purpose in a future that doesn’t come with a roadmap.

10 Essential Disruptive Leadership Books - Mind+Machine by Marc Vollenweider

Analytics or Big Data, while extremely helpful, won’t save your business. As a leader, you need to turn that information into action and gain knowledge from that action to take smarter steps in the future.

The mission of Mind+Machine: A Decision Model for Optimizing and Implementing Analytics is to investigate and improve the connection between data businesses collect and the actions they take as a result.

Marc Vollenweider’s book begins with an examination of the misconceptions and trends in business data collection in all of its current forms (IoT, analytics, etc).

The book then delves into what Vollenweider calls the “mind+ machine approach”, which combines the best features of the human mind (insight and wisdom) with the best features of the machine (automation and data collection).

This approach, the book argues, will better help everyone involved in this tech-driven world, from regulators to everyday users, gain more value from the data they are creating and collecting every day.

The Future of Leadership: People Skills and Machine Agility

Businesses depend on good leadership to navigate their business safely through an unpredictable future. In a world where data is increasing at an alarmingly fast rate, it is up to leaders to identify and execute the right technology and talent for their business goals. This prioritization requires leaders adopt a new mindset when it comes to managing the people and technology they work with. While this will be uncharted territory for all leaders, those who do integrate the disruptive leadership lessons from the books in this list should have a competitive advantage over those who don’t.

Disruption Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Essential Reads for Leaders in a Disruptive Future" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Sneaky Negotiation Tricks You Can Spot in Business and How to Overcome Them

Negotiating is a skill every small business owner needs to master to be successful. If your confidence was rattled the last time you worked out the terms of a new deal, you’re not alone. You might have been the victim of sneaky negotiating tactics designed to undermine you.

Small Business Trends spoke with Simon Letchford, Managing Director, and Brian Buck, Negotiation Consultant, from Scotwork. Their business is teaching the art of negotiation. They shared five sneaky negotiation techniques you can spot in business and how to overcome them.

Sneaky Negotiation Tricks to Avoid Programmed Behavior

Letchford says everyone wants to stay in control of any negotiation. That means learning to recognize what he calls programmed behavior and not doing anything to foster it.

He uses the example of a child that throws a temper tantrum and gets a bag of candy from his parents to placate him . Adults unconsciously learn a series of behaviors they use to similar ends.

“So, staying in control means not rewarding the behaviors you want to see less of,” Letchford says.

Of course the trick is in being able to identify these behaviors — some are programmed and others are deliberate.

Passing the Buck

“We see this a lot where someone is passing their problem onto the other party,” Buck says. This is a ploy where one person blames the other for a businesses related issue and looks for compensation.

“Not all problems are real by the way,” Buck says. The trick is to understand this blame game is designed to get concessions and not feel guilty. Don’t offer a series a fixes when someone tells your prices hurt their client base. Instead, ask them right away what you can do to right the situation.

“That way you’re giving the responsibility for the solution back to the individual,” Buck says. Volleying it back this way helps to keep the negotiation geared to business issues and not emotional ones.    

Good Cop/Bad Cop

This might be a bit of a cliché from police shows, but it works on inexperienced negotiators according to Letchford. This is highly effective when only one of the players is in the room at a time, he said.

This often plays out where the good cop wants to meet your price or take advantage of your offer but needs to confer with the bad cop who may be the boss.

Resisting this sneaky technique goes beyond bucking up against it.

“It’s in your interest to get an early lead on who the decision makers are and what the approval process is,” Letchford says. He also adds it’s good to deal with the bad cop first.

Undermining Your Confidence

It’s the very nature of negotiating to try yo get something for less. The person across the table will look for the issues they feel they have the most leverage on. These could include price, quality or a variety of other factors.

“They’ll try and use that to extract the most value from you,” Buck says.

The trick to maintaining control is to turn the tables and discover your adversary’s priorities. If they focus on your price and you know time to market is important to them, you have a starting point to trade lower priority items for higher ones.

For example, you might be able to get more money for your widgets if your client wants them to arrive overnight. Buck explains the advantage here.

“It’s about giving the other party what they want with terms that are acceptable to you.”

If you’re well prepared this way, there’s usually a way to say yes to a deal.


Any successful negotiation should be unemotional. One of the biggest sneaky tricks is using aggression. It’s an overarching theme that’s found in each of the others.

“It’s a bullying tactic that’s meant to keep the other party off balance,” Buck says. Staying, calm and being well prepared goes a long way. Recognizing these sneaky negotiating techniques for what they are is best accomplished with a cool head.

Negotiation Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Sneaky Negotiation Tricks Are Your Worst Enemy: Here are 5 You Must Defeat" was first published on Small Business Trends

Media firm Attitude Pictures is helping to kick the disability stigma. Managing director Dan Buckingham, 36, talks about competing at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and the importance of New Zealand on Air funding. A brief description...

[Author: [email protected]]

The move by the state-owned bank will cut nearly 450 UK jobs dealing with loans to small businesses.

Success Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs

The stereotypical entrepreneur thrives on personal interaction. They’re comfortable walking up to strangers and talking about their business, they have no fear giving presentations to large audiences, and they’re natural-born salespeople who can pitch their products at any time. But what about the introverts of the world, who draw energy from being alone, prefer working in solitude, and aren’t as naturally inclined to socialize with others?

Notable Introverted Entrepreneurs

If it seems like all successful entrepreneurs are extraverts, it may be a natural result of seeing how much attention they get. Extraverted entrepreneurs frequently talk to the media and go out of their way to socialize with more people, so of course you see them more than their introverted counterparts.

However, there are many examples of introverts who have become successful business owners. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, is notoriously shy and introverted, yet is able to lead one of the biggest tech companies on the planet. Bill Gates, too, is open about overcoming the challenges of introversion on his path to becoming one of the richest men on the planet.

And it’s not just the tech world, either—consulting maverick Sam Ovens describes himself as an introvert, having overcome a fear of pitching his business to others at the start of his entrepreneurial journey.

Success Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs

So how are these introverts able to succeed so impressively? What strategies can you use to overcome the additional challenges of entrepreneurship? Consider these success tips for introverted entrepreneurs to start.

1. Realize that Preferences Don’t Dictate Behavior

Both introverts and extraverts can be exhausted from too much socializing; extraverts enjoy alone time, and introverts can be successful conversationalists. Just because you’re inclined toward one end of the spectrum or the other doesn’t mean that all of your habits and actions are predetermined. Your preferences don’t dictate your behavior, so your first hurdle to overcome is breaking out of the mindset that, because you’re an introvert, you won’t be able to talk to people (or enjoy it when you do). You can maintain your identity, yet still develop the skills you need to succeed.

2. Practice

If you’re not used to communicating with others, or being in the spotlight, that’s okay. Though some people are naturally predisposed to being stronger, more confident communicators, you’re more than capable of developing those skills on your own. Like any other skill, it’s going to take practice and commitment to develop. Start making small talk with strangers, and make an effort to keep conversations with new people going. Eventually, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and more skilled at navigating conversations, and even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, you’ll be good enough at it to build your business.

3. Find a Strong Mentor

If you’re struggling to make contacts through conventional forms of socializing, like networking events, or if you aren’t sure where to start, find yourself a strong mentor. Entrepreneurs who have already found success will have a wide network of contacts you can borrow as you start to make your own progress. Most introverts also find it easier to communicate with people they get to know well over time, so as you spend more time with your mentor, you’ll have an easier time communicating and learning.

4. Find Partners Who Complement Your Strengths

You may be the visionary and the leader of your business, but that doesn’t mean building the business is squarely on your shoulders. If you aren’t a strong communicator, or if you don’t feel particularly skilled at making sales, hire people who are. Go out of your way to find partners who complement your skillset and natural attributes, so your business has access to the best of both worlds. Businesses need both introverts and extraverts to succeed, but they don’t need every individual to fully exhibit both sets of traits.

5. Build the Business You Want to Build

Finally, remember that as an entrepreneur, you’re the one setting the tone and creating the culture for your company. You can build the business you want to build. If you don’t want to rely on in-person networking and sales calls to pitch products, consider doing more inbound marketing. If you’d rather avoid the excessive spotlight of the media, create press releases that emphasize your products, rather than your leadership. There’s no single, correct way to build a successful enterprise.

If you follow these strategies, you’ll have no problem succeeding in business as an introvert—even if it seems like extraverts are the ones building the best businesses. The truth is, with enough determination and a genuine desire to succeed, anyone can become a successful business owner.

As an introvert, you’ll face a few extra challenges, but if entrepreneurship is what you truly want, those challenges won’t be able to stop you from achieving your goals.

Entrepreneur Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Best 5 Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs" was first published on Small Business Trends

Bank’s transfer of loans team to Mumbai brings loss of 443 jobs in Britain and condemnation by Unite over ‘cheap’ labour

Royal Bank of Scotland is to cut 443 jobs in Britain as the bank moves its team that arranges loans for small businesses to India.

The taxpayer-controlled bank said that the roles would transfer to Mumbai, to be included in the group’s growing team there, as part of a restructuring designed to cut costs, first reported in the Mail on Sunday.

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Why Entrepreneurs Need to Be Daring & DisruptiveDaring & Disruptive: Unleashing the Entrepreneur, by Lisa Messenger, is a mixture of several things. It is a memoir, a serial entrepreneur’s journey, an inspirational pep talk for aspiring entrepreneurs and an advice guide for the next generation of entrepreneurs who will face a disruptive and chaotic world. The key themes behind all of this are boldness and creativity, the two tools that Messenger believes will help every single entrepreneur conquer the obstacles they will inevitably face.

What is Daring & Disruptive About?

Messenger isn’t the kind of entrepreneur that you would expect to read about in a business textbook. As her book, Daring & Disruptive emphasizes, she doesn’t preach about creating a 50-page business plan, complicated financial valuations, or slick marketing schemes to reach customers.

In fact, Messenger regularly dives into new business ventures on gut instinct and a back-of-the-envelope business plan alone, fosters an environment where employees are able to bring their pets to work and launches into spontaneous acts of kindness whenever she comes across an opportunity.

This style of entrepreneurship, while nontraditional, may actually showcase what the future of entrepreneurship will be like as the next generation of entrepreneurs (Millennials and beyond) prepare for their own businesses. It has proven to be successful for Messenger, who launched a magazine that turned into a global online platform for distribution in over 30+ countries (without the need for outside investors), has written over 16 books, and started a publishing company that has assisted over 400 authors.

Messenger credits her successes with her life experiences which taught her about the core of entrepreneurship. At its core, entrepreneurship isn’t about designing fancy PowerPoint presentations for investors or creating an overly complicated business strategy. It’s about two things, being bold and being fearless. It’s about being open to opportunities to fill a customer’s needs and wants in your own way — rather than waiting for external validation. It’s about remaining in a continuous state of learning and experimentation so you can adapt your business as things change. This kind of entrepreneurship thrives from moving fast and furious since speed in a powerful asset in a competitive world. Those business owners who continue to develop, experiment and bring their ideas to market will have a greater chance of survival in the unpredictable future.

Messenger is a serial entrepreneur who currently serves as the CEO and creative director of the Messenger Group, a public relations agency, and is the founder and editor of Collective Hub, a global multimedia platform with distribution in more than 30 countries. Messenger, who describes herself as a child who never followed the traditional path, started out in the event marketing and sponsorship industry, eventually bootstrapping her own businesses to become a successful serial entrepreneur, speaker and mentor.

What Was Best About Daring & Disruptive?

The best part of Daring & Disruptive is the powerful feel-good message Messenger delivers throughout the book. Essentially, Messenger asserts that there is no plausible reason why an entrepreneur with a good idea can’t eventually succeed. She points to her own life as an example of a person who doesn’t follow the traditional rules when it comes to business. Yet, she argues that this tendency to steadfastly follow her own path and remain open to wherever it leads can serve as the perfect competitive strategy for entrepreneurs who don’t fit the traditional mold.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Daring & Disruptive is written for a particular type of entrepreneur, those who don’t fit the traditional mold. It focuses on providing inspiration and motivation for that kind of entrepreneur. It does not place extensive focus on testing your business idea, operating strategies or finances. This information isn’t crucial to the book’s message, but providing some resources in these areas (i.e. resources for setting up a landing page, etc.) might help beginning entrepreneurs who feel inspired by Messenger’s words and want to take the next step.

Why Read Daring & Disruptive?

It has been projected that a substantial number of Millennials possess entrepreneurial aspirations. If that happens to be the case for you (or someone you know), then Daring & Disruptive is the perfect motivational guide to get started. While the book is focused on helping entrepreneurs of any age break barriers, it resonates particularly well with Millennial entrepreneurs who may feel they don’t have what it takes to pursue their business dreams. Messenger, using her own life as an example, shows that the path to entrepreneurship isn’t set in stone. It is set in your heart and mind. Her book demonstrates how Messenger was able to use her heart and mind to create a business her way. In the process, she hopes to inspire others to do the same so they can achieve what they once thought impossible.

This article, "Why Entrepreneurs Need to Be Daring and Disruptive" was first published on Small Business Trends

Sometimes the best opportunities come from seeing an untapped market and determining how to serve it. Read about how Bo's Wine Depot identified just such an opportunity, and handled challenges.
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This week’s calendar of events is absolute proof you don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel to far off destinations to get all the helpful small business advice you need.

There are plenty of upcoming business events that take place completely online, including a Twitter chat aimed at getting you inspired, a webinar to improve the speed of your team, an online conference aimed at sales professionals and even a digital marketing conference.

You can learn about all of these online events and more in the Featured Events section. And check out even more event opportunities for your small business in the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

"Get Inspired in Your Business"Twitter Chat: “Get Inspired in Your Business”
June 28, 2017, Online, Twitter

Are you ready for the Microsoft Inspire event? The company’s annual partner conference is only a couple weeks away! Join Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, and Small Business expert Gene Marks on June 28, 2017 at 3pm ET (12pm PT) under the hashtag #MSBizTips for a preview of what’s coming down the pipeline for small businesses from Microsoft, and discover what you can expect to learn from the conference.

Give Your Team What it Needs for SpeedWEBINAR: Give Your Team What it Needs for Speed
June 29, 2017, Online

The right technology tools and resources can help your team respond to—and stay ahead of—your competition and the market. Whether you have two employees or 100, you can always ramp up team speed. From improving processes and decision-making to boosting collaboration and providing your team with the technology and tools it needs, this webinar will explore the ways in which team speed can be leveraged as a critical competitive edge. Our panel of entrepreneurs and experts will engage in a lively, informed and interactive discussion about how you make your team more nimble and agile—and boost productivity and profits as a result. Our Panelists include Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, Gene Marks, owner and operator of the Marks Group, and Ramon Ray, Small Business Evangelist at Infusionsoft, publisher of Smart Hustle magazine, and Technology Evangelist at SmallBizTechnology.

Rule Breaker Awards 2017Rule Breaker Awards 2017
June 30, 2017, Online

Entrepreneurs don’t play by the rules. Why should you be judged by them? The Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way. Some have created whole new industries; others have revolutionized industries that have existed for hundreds of years. Nominations end June 30, 2017. Nominate an entrepreneur today!

Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony
October 24, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

On October 24, 2017 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way in a ceremony featuring the Rule Breaker of the Year and Rule Breaker Award winners.

Sales World 2017Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 - Digital Marketing ConferenceDIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.

More Events More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Online business events photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Check Out These Upcoming Online Events for Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

There are no tips that work perfectly for every small business, because there are so many different types of small businesses with different customers and different needs. So it can help to find advice actually geared toward specific types of businesses.

Members of the online small business community have experience in many different industries and niches. So here are some tips for running everything from a blogging business to a restaurant franchise. Chances are you’ll find something that applies to your business too.

Don’t Make These Business Blogger Mistakes

Blogging has become a popular business opportunity for entrepreneurs in just about every niche. But there are a lot of mistakes that people can make when getting into this type of business. Ryan Biddulph explores some of the common mistakes made by travel bloggers — but they can really apply to just about any blog run as a business —   in a Basic Blog Tips post.

Move Customers Through the Sales Funnel

For sales based businesses, finding ways to move customers through those sales funnels regularly is key. The tips in this post by Rick Verbanas of Your Guerrilla Marketer can help your business move customers through sales funnels more efficiently so you can make more sales.

Make a Profitable YouTube Video Channel

In 2017, YouTube isn’t just a marketing tool. It can actually be its very own income stream. In this post, Philip Verghese Ariel shares some thoughts and an infographic with tips for creating profitable YouTube channels. You can also see commentary on the post over on BizSugar.

Learn Why Franchising is Great for Entrepreneurs

Franchising can make opening a business easier, especially for new entrepreneurs. And there are several other potential benefits to opening franchise businesses as well, as Ivan Widjaya of Noobpreneur goes over in this post.

Use This Checklist for Local SEO Success

Local businesses also have plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially with all the mobile marketing and SEO techniques that can help these businesses grow. Maddy Osman offers a checklist for local businesses to improve SEO in this Search Engine Journal post.

Start the Hiring Process for Your New Startup

If you have a brand new startup, there are so many factors that can contribute to your success. But your startup team can be one of the most important factors. Learn how to start the hiring process for your new startup in this post by Pamela Swift.

Learn About Amazon’s New Prime Wardrobe

If your small business offers clothing and apparel on platforms like Amazon, a new program for Prime members that lets them try on certain items for free could be of interest. Read more about the program in this Marketing Land post by Amy Gesenhues.

Guide Leads With These Content Marketing Tactics

For sales oriented businesses, there are many tactics you can use to guide leads from consideration to decision. Content marketing can even be part of that mix, as Avinash Nair in this Right Mix Marketing post.

Build a Successful Social Media Marketing Plan

Social media can be a great marketing tool or even something you can build an entire business around. But you need a great plan in order to succeed. Here are some tips from Pierre de Braux of Social Media Examiner. And you can also see what BizSugar members have to say about the post here.

Track Remote Workers’ Productivity

These days, many different types of businesses can benefit from using the help of remote workers. But tracking their productivity can be a challenge. This post by the Young Entrepreneur Council lists some tools you can use to keep track of productivity even when workers aren’t in your office.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: [email protected]

Targeting your niche photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Niche-Specific Tips for Everyone from Business Bloggers to Franchise Owners" was first published on Small Business Trends

From the past decade, the usage of mobile devices has been increasing at a faster pace. Almost 3/4th of smartphone users in America check their mobile devices at least twice per hour, according to a survey by Gallup. This means, nearly 90% of the smartphone time is now completely dedicated to utili
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With the celebration of 30 years since the creation of GIFs , the iconic files that create mini animations show little sign of losing popularity. But are these sometimes hilarious files still so popular in social media posts and even business chats really appropriate for business communication? Funny you should ask!

According to Richard Rabbat, CEO and founder of Gyfcat, anything that is G-rated and light-hearted can be appropriate in some business instances. But there are some specific types of GIFs that can really apply to businesses in a lot of situations. Here are 25 acceptable GIF reactions for businesses to consider.

Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses Mood-Lightening GIFs

Rabbat says, “GIFs provide clarity of emotional intent that’s absent from text. It’s easy to misconstrue meaning over text. How many times have we thought someone was annoyed when they were trying to make a joke? GIFs remove that ambiguity.”


For that reason, sharing joke GIFs with your team within business chats on Skype or similar platforms can be a great way to add levity — especially when tensions over a particular project are running high.


Or if a member of your team or even a follower on social media shares something humorous, you can share a laughter GIF as a more creative version of “lol.”

Welcome Gestures

If you’re welcoming people to a business chat on a platform like Skype, you can share a simple welcome gesture by using a GIF of a person waving or even some welcoming text.

Goodbye Waves

Likewise, you can share a GIF at the end of an online chat to wave goodbye or wish your colleagues well.


You can also use GIFs that include encouraging messages or motions to tell team members or followers that they’re doing a great job.

Thank Yous

Or if you have a team member who really helped you out or a follower who shared a great story about your brand online, you can share a quick thank you message in GIF form.

Surprised Reactions

There are plenty of GIFs out there that portray surprised faces, perfect for those instances where someone shares a shocking story or statistic with you.

Clapping GIFs

Clapping is a great way to show someone that you approve of what they just did or said. So clapping GIFs can do the same online.

High Fives

Or maybe you just completed a project where everyone did a great job. So a high five GIF can convey your happiness with everyone’s efforts.

Group Hugs

Similarly, a group hug GIF can help you celebrate an accomplishment and build a stronger bond among your team members.

Dancing GIFs

Whether you’re communicating with team members or social media followers, dancing GIFs can help you share general happiness while adding a little silliness.

Celebratory Scenes

Other celebratory scenes like a leap in the air or arm pump can also be appropriate in any situation where you’re celebrating a big win.

Fail GIFs

On the other hand, you can also use GIFs to make light of situations where things didn’t go your way. Don’t use them to criticize your team! But if you made a silly mistake that you want to acknowledge, you could use a number of different fail GIFs to convey that.

Frustration GIFs

You can also use GIFs to express frustration. Again, this doesn’t apply for serious situations. But if, for example, you’re experiencing an extra long Monday, you can share a GIF of frustration with team members.

Funny Faces

Funny faces are appropriate in a number of different situations to lighten the mood or react to messages on social media.

Holiday Greetings

On holidays, you can also use GIFs to send out greetings and well wishes to specific team members or followers on social media.

Happy Weekend Messages

Similarly, you can celebrate the start of the weekend with a GIF post that includes a celebratory message.

Reminder Messages

Let’s say you have a big event coming up at your office. In a reminder message to your team, you can include an eye-catching GIF aimed at calling attention to that event so that everyone will be sure to remember it.

Text GIFs

A lot of GIFs also include text captions. So they can convey more specific sentiments to specific people. As long as the text is appropriate, these GIFs can help you communicate with people in your team or on social media.

Popular Characters

There are also plenty of GIFs that feature popular characters from TV or movies. So if you’re having a conversation with someone who you know loves a particular character, using a GIF of them could be a great option.


Cinemagraphs are GIFs that usually feature fairly wide scenes but include just one moving part. Picture an image of a full auditorium but just one person is clapping or moving around. As long as the content is appropriate, these GIFs can let you share even more creative scenes.

Looping GIFs

There are also GIFs that basically loop around when they start over, so it looks like a never-ending movement.

Anything G-Rated

Basically, depending on the situation and the person or persons you’re communicating with, you can share just about anything that is G or PG-rated in GIF form.

Cute Animals

And finally, when in doubt, don’t forget about GIFs of cute animals.

Rabbat says, “Cute animals are appropriate in most situations. They’re crowd pleasing, G-rated and get tons of attention on social media.”

GIF Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "25 Perfectly Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur's HandbookIf you wanted to become an entrepreneur, chances are that 99 percent of the people would tell you that you need a business plan. They would tell you to study the market, estimate how much money you need, and how much in sales you need to cover your expenses. The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Useful Stuff For Your Enterprise Voyage would question that logic. This book argues that you don’t need some external requirement (like a degree or fancy 50 plus page business plan) to become an entrepreneur. You only need to take that first step on your entrepreneur’s voyage and then another one.

What is The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook About?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook begins with the premise that everyone can be an entrepreneur. History seems to bear this out if you think about. People from all walks of life have become entrepreneurs. If this is true, then why are prospective entrepreneurs constantly held back by those who insist on a  more formalized approach? Why do some supposed “experts” seem to believe only a certain type of person can be an entrepreneur?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook argues potential entrepreneurs hold themselves back from entrepreneurship because they (consciously or subconsciously) allow circumstances to opt them out of it. They might have an idea for a business but they don’t want to leave safety for the unknown. They might have been told only people who display certain traits (extroverts, for example) can run a successful business. They might believe they need a world-changing idea before they can become accepted as an entrepreneur. So they bury their entrepreneurial dreams and read about other success stories while quietly wishing they could experience the same success.

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook calls this approach just plain wrong.

Entrepreneurship isn’t about fancy PowerPoints or even suits. It’s a way of thinking. Entrepreneurs make stuff happen by implementing ideas that fulfill another person’s need, whether that is a haircut, BMW, or someone to watch the kids while a couple goes on date night.

Accepting this broader definition is the point of The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook. The book asserts that readers don’t need any external validation to be an entrepreneur. They only need an idea and a key set of characteristics (discussed in the book) to get started on their “enterprise voyage,” the author’s name for the rough-and-tumble ride of entrepreneurship.

Author Iain Scott, also known as Enterprise Iain, is a former teacher who left a career in education (despite constant reminders of his loss of security) to become an entrepreneur. Although he knew nothing about entrepreneurship, he utilized the techniques he discusses in his book. In his book, Scott describes how he found a calling to help others launch their entrepreneurial dreams (instead of managing his own business.) He is the founder of Can Do Places + Spaces, a website focused on entrepreneurship, and works as an author, podcaster and filmmaker with a long history covering entrepreneurial support programs.

What Was Best About The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook?

The best part of The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook is the redefinition of the concept of “entrepreneurship”. Most books, to this day, run under the assumption that you have to follow a set path to becoming an entrepreneur. Scott’s book shares why this is misleading and ultimately blocks prospective entrepreneurs into a cycle of “wantepreneurism”. Prospective entrepreneurs feel they don’t meet the requirements even though they are blocking their own paths with these beliefs. The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook dispels those ideas and provides readers with a more realistic overview of the entrepreneurial journey

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook can best be thought of as an inspirational guide to an entrepreneur’s first step. The book, however, lacks sufficient detail on the next steps an entrepreneur should take once they decide to move ahead with starting a business. As the book points out, there is no straightforward “check off the box” path to entrepreneurship. That being said, prospective entrepreneurs can learn a lot from following the previous steps of entrepreneurs. Adding more case studies (including more details about the author’s journey in his food specialty business) may help readers navigate their initial first months as an entrepreneur.

Why Read The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook should appeal most to prospective “wantrepreneurs” and new entrepreneurs in their first few months of business. While some more detail could be helpful, the book provides an excellent overview of entrepreneurship. It is a motivational and realistic guide to entrepreneurship outside the more formal approach and complicated business jargon (although some business terms are used.) And it shows how anyone can adopt the entrepreneurial spirit. If you are an entrepreneur who is waiting for the right moment, a new entrepreneur who is wondering if you are going in the right direction or just someone who wants to take more ownership of your life, The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook is a creative and inspirational boost that urges you to chase your dream now, rather than someday.

This article, "Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook" was first published on Small Business Trends

Against all the odds, some entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe are running successful small businesses.

How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughterThis is a branding book that covers a unique topic, the death of a brand. Using a fictional case study, Reliance Hospital, the book shows why businesses must remain proactive about every important aspect of their brand or risk watching their brands die.

What is Preventing BrandSlaughter About?

Understanding the importance of proactively managing your brand is the core message of Preventing BrandSlaughter: How to Preserve, Support, and Grow Your Brand Asset Value. In this book, branding is more than a graphic you slap on a product to identify your business. Branding is the lifeblood of your organization. Without attention to the things that feed your brand (dedicated employees, high standards, focused leadership), your brand suffers and eventually dies. When a brand dies, the business is next to fall.

To illustrate his point, David Corbin provides a fictional case study of a hospital. The book follows two stories. The first is about new employees attending an orientation at the hospital. These new employees are introduced to the concept of Preventing BrandSlaughter along with the specific principles the hospital uses to prevent the death of its brand. The second story follows two doctors at the hospital who want to integrate new technology but encounter a clash of personalities.

As both stories in the case study emphasize, branding involves more than the marketing department. There are two major aspects of a successful brand, the external (how you define your business to the world) and internal (what your employees do to support your brand). The goal of a business is to be consistent with its external and internal branding. A brand that accomplishes this is said to have integrity.

Reaching brand integrity isn’t automatic. It requires regular auditing to identify and fix areas that need improvement. By doing this, brands reinforce a high-performing culture that continues to evolve. This high performance, in turn, keeps the brand growing. High-performing businesses that proactively grow their brand avoid the same fatal missteps of a business that takes its customers and branding for granted.

Author David Corbin, known as “Robin Williams with an MBA“, is a former psychotherapist and consultant who currently works as a keynote speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Corbin has worked with the top leaders at companies such as AT&T, Hallmark and Sprint. He was a host and the star of a movie called ”Pass It“ and was recently featured in another movie ”Three Feet From Gold“. Corbin was ranked as one of the top speakers at INC Magazines’ national conferences. He also received the International Enterprise of the Year award for designing a touchscreen patient interview system.

What Was Best About Preventing BrandSlaughter?

As described above, most branding advice focuses on how to launch a brand. This advice doesn’t focus on maintaining a brand over the long-term. Preventing BrandSlaughter fills that role and does so with ease. Utilizing a heart-warming case study, it reinforces the core simplicity of branding rather than getting obsessed with the technical details. This focus on branding fundamentals and high standards of excellence remains crucial in a world requiring businesses to balance growth and agility.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Preventing BrandSlaughter has a heart-warming story, an empowering message and a principles-based perspective that can be applied to any organization at any level. But the the book’s examples focus more on principles than specifics. For example, the book references a specific type of branding audit (called “Accreditation of Brand Integrity” or ABBY audits) but fails to give any detailed examples or guidance on how to create one.

Why Read Preventing BrandSlaughter?

Many business owners have relegated branding to the marketing department, but David Corbin’s book emphasizes why readers should not do this. Instead, Corbin asserts that branding is something everyone is continually engaged in. Every transaction, every communication, every touchpoint is an opportunity to build or destroy the brand. If a brand isn’t integrated into a business demanding accountability and excellence from its employees,  it runs the risk of bringing about its own death.

Because the concepts discussed in Preventing BrandSlaughter should be utilized by everyone in a business, the book is relevant for everyone. However, the content will be of special interest to leaders because of the core message it reinforces: Branding is everything. Unlike other branding books which tend to get abstract when discussing branding, Preventing BrandSlaughter focuses on the down-to-earth implications of not taking your brand seriously.

This article, "How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughter" was first published on Small Business Trends

When you’re managing your own small business, a lot of your time and energy is used up on day to day operations. So when you pick the tools to keep your inventory accurate, it can be easy to rely on the ones you are already familiar with. In fact, many of our current customers tell us that they’ve come from good old pen and paper or spreadsheet software like Excel. While these are both tried and tested tools, they weren’t designed specifically with inventory management or small business growth in mind.

So if you’ve been having trouble finding that single sales order in a stack of papers, or you’re worried that you might not be editing the latest version of your product spreadsheet, then it’s probably time to migrate to something more specialized.

the problem with paper

The problem with paper

If you’re tracking sales and product lists on paper, this article isn’t going to convince you to abandon it. Nothing competes with the ease-of-use and universal compatibility of paper: it’s affordable, plentiful, and works with any pen or pencil — even the one your grandmother owned. Regardless of all of the little gadgets we wear and carry around today, we aren’t going to be abandoning paper any time soon. However, there are already major benefits to moving most of your tasks out of an analog (paper) system and into a digital one.

One of the drawbacks of an analog system is that it doesn’t scale very well. It’s easy to run out of space on a sheet of paper or reach the last page in a notebook, and once that happens, it can be difficult to keep all of the relevant information together. Was that big sale for the Ghost glasses in the March notebook or the April notebook? On paper that means leafing through different pages until you find the right entry. This is manageable if sales are still low and you know your records like the back of your hand, but an analog system can be a bottleneck if only one person knows the books, and other employees have to search for orders page by page.

With a digital system like inFlow, many fields are searchable, so you can find what you can often find exactly what you were looking for within seconds. You can also search by using multiple criteria, so if you know the customer name and one of the products that was on the sales order, your list of search results will be that much smaller.

Another issue with tracking inventory on paper is the lack of easy backups. Your business lives in your records, and while paper is convenient, it can also be affected by spilled coffee or other office mishaps. You can scan or take photos of your orders and product lists, but that time spent creating backups could otherwise have been spent managing your business. Your valuable data should be kept in a system that provides multiple backups that are resistant to caffeinated drinks. Both versions of inFlow handle your backups automatically, so you can rest assured that you have several copies of your data and just focus on working.

Managing inventory inside of a spreadsheet

The shortcomings of spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a good step up from paper. Many businesses already use programs like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and so you may already have access to apps like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. Spreadsheets are powerful because they’re like pieces of paper infused with calculation goodness, and they aren’t limited by factors like physical size.

Because spreadsheets can have virtually unlimited columns and rows, it isn’t very obvious that your business has outgrown spreadsheets as a tool for everyday inventory tracking. You won’t reach the end of a page or see any errors for adding too many columns. However, this issue show up in more subtle ways.

As your small business grows, more people may need access to the spreadsheet at any given moment, and it can be difficult to tell who was responsible for making a change — and when they may have issued that change. If you return to a sales order on Monday morning to find it has a different order quantity than you remember, you might be able to check who used the spreadsheet recently, but not necessarily which changes they made. This is because the spreadsheet is a powerful general tool, but it doesn’t know what kind of historical information you might need. This is where inFlow’s version history can help a lot. For any given product, order, or customer, you’ll be able to go back in time to see how that record appeared after each save.

Another challenging aspect of managing inventory with spreadsheets is that you’ll need to tie them together if you want an up-to-date overview of your inventory. It’s a good practice to separate your sales (outgoing) and purchase (incoming) orders, but if you do that, you’ll need to link the order sheets to a separate product sheet so that your inventory levels are consistent.

This is all doable within a spreadsheet, but inFlow makes the process much easier because it was designed specifically with order and product management in mind. You can create a sales order and save it to tell the program that you have reserved “5 pairs” of Ghost glasses, and when you fulfill the order by sending the product out the door, one click will subtract “5 pairs” of Ghost glasses from your inventory. You’ll also be able to easily handle other operations that would require complex formulas on a spreadsheet, like managing multiple tax rates and having separate remarks that are only visible to internal teams.

Grow further with inFlow

The point of this article is not to say that your business should stop using paper and spreadsheets. On the contrary, these tools will probably always be a part of running your business, but they are not the best tools for you to rely on to manage your day-to-day inventory. We’re definitely (a little) biased here, but if you’ve outgrown your pen and paper or spreadsheet solutions, inFlow Inventory (for local data hosting) or inFlow Cloud (for syncing your data over the internet) could be a fantastic next step for your small business.

The post appeared first on inFlow Inventory Blog.

Software developers are missing out on some really overlooked, lucrative opportunities by not considering these 5 niche industries. These are 5 niche industries that have the highest software development demand:

Business-to-Business Sales

The need for software developers is growing every day in the B2B sales industry. While there are many CRM systems on the market today, these systems are being challenged by new pioneers in customer relationship management. Young software development companies are creating software systems that are revolutionizing automation, management, and lead generation. These sales tools are always in need of updating, because of the constant change in business communication trends.

Social Media Marketing

Automation has become a huge factor for success in the internet marketing industry, and social media is developing so many new ways for successful marketing automation. Facebook bots allow companies to automate chat options through Facebook messenger, retargeting through Facebook and Instagram advertising has become immensely fluid, and it's no secret the potential for email marketing through Facebook lead generation and automation. All that's missing is a software developer or company willing to team up with a large social media marketing company and create the next generation of tools.


The healthcare industry is constantly growing and changes in technology have allowed this industry to develop nearly unhindered. While healthcare software might not be the newest concept, there is a great need for the development of current data management software within the industry. New automation tools are always being developed to help companies and industries grow and succeed, and healthcare is one industry that is always in need of new healthcare software.


It's no secret that many religious organizations are financially prosperous, and there are many ways that software development is already being paid for and utilized in this industry. CRMs, online media platforms, internet broadcasting platforms, and communication software are constantly being developed for churches of all size. Think about how valuable it would be if you could help organizations automate even more intimate connections with people, in their living rooms, work offices, and cell phone pockets. Many software development companies are already serving this industry, though it's still a relatively new demand.


There still isn't enough software development in the restaurant industry. So many small-to-mid-size restaurants are in need of online ordering and POS software, and whether you serve this need on a service subscription basis or internally on a one-time basis, there is no doubt of the demand in the restaurant industry for software development.


Martial Arts

Thousands of martial arts studios across the country are trying to systematize their attendance, marketing, and ranking with mobile-friendly digital technology. While some software like ZenPlanner already exists in this space, some self-defense studios need (and are willing to pay for) proprietary, in-house software that can be built for their specific utilities and to the specifications of their style.



As software development continues to grow as an economic engine within our society, more and more schools and school districts are requiring basic coding as a mandatory course for High School, Middle School, and even upper-grade Elementary School students. These courses will require knowledgeable instructors who are proficient in C, Ruby, and Java. While public education has not typically been a lucrative career track, market forces will demand that these niche instructors are very well-compensated.


Barring a global collapse of all IT infrastructure, software development will continue to be a vital ingredient to all sectors of the economy. These careers aren’t going anywhere. It’s still possible to find jobs at major software corporations like Adobe or Micro Focus, but small business makes up the lion’s share of the economy, and these niche industries are an ever-expanding space for software developers to make their mark (and make a little money while doing so). 

[Author: Rachael Murphey]

Virtual Reality Shopping

The way customers shop is changing. And it’s not just about buying products online anymore. New technology like virtual reality also has the potential to change the way people discover and purchase products.

This might not be commonplace in the U.S. just yet. But it’s starting to catch on in other parts of the world. At this week’s Gateway ‘17 event, experts on the Chinese market discussed the way virtual reality is catching on quickly with Chinese shoppers.

Small Business Trends attended the inaugural Gateway’17 event June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

“It’s not that the technology is more advanced, but the rate of adoption is a little different in China,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group in a presentation at Wednesday’s Gateway ‘17 event.

Virtual Reality Shopping

Basically, if your business sells products online, you could use VR to offer an online shopping experience that mimics the actual retail experience. Customers can look around a store and locate specific products without having to actually make the trip to a store. And if you don’t have a retail location, you could theoretically create one to offer a similar experience to customers using VR headsets.

But VR isn’t the only type of technology changing the shopping experience in China. Some businesses have also made use of augmented reality to give customers the ability to do things like try on virtual makeup or see virtual home decor items in their actual rooms.

Even though this , businesses still have access to the tools needed to make shopping experiences like this possible. So if there’s something that you think could improve the shopping experience for your customers, you could benefit from jumping on this technology early on.

Virtual Reality Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Will Your Customers Soon Be Shopping in Virtual Reality? – #Gateway17" was first published on Small Business Trends

Lessons from families in the sushi, boot-making and wallpaper businesses.

Getting ready to head on a summer trip? Paulo Coelho has 9 great tips to make yours a meaningful one. It’s easy to get lost, so to speak, in a long list of must-sees and to-dos when you take a vacation. Try taking some of Mr. Coelho’s suggestions so you can make your experience an extraordinary one.

Now, we hope you enjoy another great set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our crowdSPRING Twitter account (and on Ross’s Twitter account). We regularly share our favorite posts on entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, logo design, web design, startups, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!


Make YouTube time productive time with tips from successful business experts like @garyvee and 14 others

— crowdSPRING (@crowdSPRING) June 18, 2017

Good insights from @msuster … Should Startups Care About Profitability? – Both Sides of the Table

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 18, 2017

Top 20 reasons startups fail by @CBinsights #saas #tech

— Dan Martell (@danmartell) June 16, 2017

10 thoughts for small businesses and startups on financial modeling

— crowdSPRING (@crowdSPRING) June 22, 2017


YouTube doesn't have to just be cat videos. Channels @Backlinko are great resources for entrepreneurs and small biz.

— crowdSPRING (@crowdSPRING) June 23, 2017

The future of ad agencies has never been more in doubt

— crowdSPRING (@crowdSPRING) June 20, 2017

Terrific story.

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 22, 2017

A Stanford Psychologist Says This Is the Best Way to Praise Employees (Yet Most Bosses Don't) –

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 20, 2017

There's some truth to these observation s… Why we’re betting against real-time team messaging –

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 20, 2017


Creative idea … Nutella 'Hired' an Algorithm to Design New Jars. And It Was a Sell-Out Success

— crowdSPRING (@crowdSPRING) June 20, 2017


Stop Asking Busy People If They Want to "Catch Up" with You

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 22, 2017

Good thoughts on the Whole Foods acquisition … Amazon’s New Customer

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 20, 2017

Fascinating read … Inside the Bold Attempt to Reverse a $55 Million Digital Heist

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 20, 2017

We now know who can star in a remake of Flashdance.

— Ross Kimbarovsky (@rosskimbarovsky) June 23, 2017

For more about creating a successful business, check out our latest ebook written by CEO and founder Ross Kimbarovsky entitled Stand Out: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting, Growing, and Managing a Successful Business.

If you want to be relevant in today’s business world, you need to be able to market to mobile customers. And Bing is now making it easier for businesses to target mobile advertising on its platform.

Another way to stay relevant is to keep an eye out for new opportunities — like selling to the growing market for import products in China. You can learn all about those opportunities discussed at this week’s Gateway ’17 event, along with more small business news below. Read on for more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Local Marketing Bing Rolls Out Mobile Ad Targeting – Now on Par With Google

Bing Ads fully rolled out the pilot launch of its recently, setting the stage for competition with Google AdWords putting Bing Ads on par with the undisputed search leader’s ad network. The update to Bing Ads brings with it expanded device targeting, allowing for greater control of bids specific to device type.

Economy Alibaba Takes Detroit By Storm With Sold Out Small Business Conference – #Gateway17

Gateway ’17, an inaugural small business event aimed at businesses interested in exporting goods or otherwise expanding their customer base in China, took Detroit by storm this week. The sold-out event features big name speakers like Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma, CEO of UPS David Abney, and style-maven Martha Stewart.

Trump’s Rule Changes on Cuba Cause Worry, Will U.S. Businesses Suffer?

President Donald Trump visited Miami Friday, where he announced a tightening of the rules on trade and travel enacted under former President Barack Obama.

Looking for a New Customer? How About the Pentagon?

There’s been plenty of focus on American manufacturing lately. Much of that focus has been placed on benefits like job creation and local economic growth. But there’s another factor that not many have considered — national security. And this is an area where American manufacturing still lags behind.

70 Percent of Small Businesses Support Buy American-Hire American Policies

Small business owners continue to back President Donald Trump. Seventy percent of small businesses are in favor of the President’s Buy American-Hire American executive order. If approved, it will require the government to review its current H-1B visa program. Meanwhile, 52 percent rate Trump’s first 100 days in office as a success.

Ranking Democrat Calls for Relief from Tax Burden on Small Business

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, recently issued a statement calling for removing the burdens the U.S. tax code imposes on small businesses. The statement by Sen. Shaheen was made June 14 at a Senate hearing examining the impact of the current tax structure on American small businesses.

Employment Small Businesses in the Midwest Are in Hiring Mode, Others – Not So Much

No matter where your small business is located, if you’re hiring right now, you’re likely competing against big demand from small businesses in the Midwest. Small businesses in large portions of the nation’s breadbasket are looking for a lot more breadwinners. Midwest Small Business Job Market New data from the job site Indeed.

Marketing Tips 10 Smart Tips for Marketing Your Brand to Chinese Consumers – #Gateway17

So you’re interested in selling in China? Great! There are plenty of opportunities for companies looking to expand into the Chinese market, according to speakers at Alibaba’s Gateway ‘17 event this week. But it’s not as easy as just listing some products and arranging shipments to China. You actually have to learn how to market to Chinese consumers.

UPS and Martha Stewart Talk Growing Global and Exporting Your Brand – #Gateway17

What do CEO and Chairman of UPS David Abney and style-maven Martha Stewart have in common? They both think that growing globally is a great way to expand a business. Global Expansion Tips Both spoke at the Gateway ‘17 event in Detroit today, sharing their thoughts on opportunities for small businesses in China and beyond.

Retail Trends 20 Products Most In Demand with Chinese Customers – #Gateway17

With a middle class of 300 million that’s growing annually, there certainly are plenty of opportunities for selling products to Chinese consumers. But some products are more in demand than others. To help small businesses attempting to enter that market determine which is which, online seller Alibaba held its Gateway ‘17 conference in Detroit this week.

What is Tmall and How Can You Use it to Reach Customers in China? – #Gateway17

At the Gateway ‘17 business conference this week, entrepreneurs learned about the different methods you can use to get products in front of Chinese consumers. One of those is Tmall. Tmall is an online marketplace where Chinese consumers can purchase anything from health food to athletic shoes. But there’s more to it than that.

Vistaprint Gets New Brick and Mortar Store in Toronto

Almost 20 years after Vistaprint (NASDAQ:CMPR) began providing small business owners with professional marketing services and products, the customized marketing materials specialist has opened its first ever bricks and mortar store. Vistaprint’s retail space is located in downtown Toronto. The Vistaprint Studio enables customers to physically feel and touch Vistaprint’s products.

China Needs Your Small Business Products – #Gateway17

China is the next big frontier for small businesses, according to a Keynote from Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, at Gateway ‘17 at Detroit’s Cobo Center today. When the internet was booming in the mid ‘90’s, Ma did a search for “beer and China” and found no results.

Moving to the Mall: How the Death of Department Stores Could Benefit Small Retailers

Once a staple of suburban life, America’s malls are going through a sea change. A recent rash of department store closures, including many Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears locations, is making news. However, although more than 300 department stores are slated to close this year, this is just the latest wave in a trend that’s been going on for years.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Bryson City Bicycles Offers a Friendly Atmosphere

If you’ve ever been to a bicycle shop, you may have been struck by how exclusive or unwelcoming the environment was. But that’s where one shop, Bryson City Bicycles, aims to set itself apart. Read about how this destination bike shop has built its business around a simple philosophy in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does Sells bicycles and more.

Small Business Operations 10 Things Small Businesses Should Know About the New 833 Toll Free Phone Exchange

The FCC just released a new toll-free prefix on June 3, meaning there are now a whole new series of toll-free numbers for businesses to claim. The 833 prefix opens up more vanity numbers and combinations that are easy for customers to remember. And those numbers may provide some unique benefits to certain businesses.

Microsoft Dictate Types While You Talk

If there is one word synonymous with digital technology, it is efficiency. And the folks at Microsoft Garage have released a new tool which will make you more efficient over typing on a keyboard, Dictate. As the name implies, Dictate is an add-in designed to convert speech to text by letting you speak what you need to type.

Is FourKites Tracking Technology a Game Changer for Small Trucking Companies?

The bigger trucking companies like UPS and FedEx employ expensive and sophisticated tracking technology to pinpoint where a package is at any point in its journey. Retailers like Amazon have added two-day shipping and real-time tracking to heighten consumer expectations. The result? More pressure on smaller trucking companies and businesses to compete.

Social Media Twitter Introduces a New Look, But Will It Revive Anemic Traffic?

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) just unveiled its latest redesign with a new interface, which is mostly cosmetic. The company is refreshing the brand as it looks to increase its user base by, “making it feel lighter, faster, and easier to use.

Startup Shocking! Fake News Now a Booming Business for Hire Online, Report Says

Twisting the truth and spreading it online is no longer just a fad. It’s a growing industry with a range of services on offer, a new study finds. The whole business of making money by spinning lies of course presents a moral dilemma. But its rapid growth creates a business opportunity that many people are apparently finding hard to resist.

Technology Trends YouTube Introduces Heatmaps for Virtual Reality Videos

YouTube recently introduced heatmaps for virtual reality (VR) videos with over 1,000 views. The Google-owned video site said the heatmaps will give you specific insight into how your viewers are engaging with videos created in VR.

White House Tech Summit Good News for Small Businesses? Hope So!

The White House wants to improve technology across government agencies. And that could lead to some opportunities for small businesses.

BBB Says Fake RFP Emails are Targeting Small Businesses

You’ve got mail! And it could be a scam. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says fake malicious emails are circulating right now that target small businesses. The emails purport to contain an RFP (Request for Proposal). That’s usually an easy hook to get a small business to open the email. After all, it could mean more business.

One in Five Americans Can’t Get Enough GIFs

Looking to promote your small business on social media, your website and in emails? You might want to consider using GIFs for quick how-tos, product demos or even lighthearted ads. According to a recent study by Gfycat, a popular user-generated GIF platform, 63 percent of Americans are GIF users — and one in five Americans can’t get enough of them.

Restaurant Owners, App Use Among Foodies is Up 70 Percent

If you have a restaurant, this is one data point you can’t afford to ignore. Since 2014, food app usage among foodies has increased by around 70 percent. A Revealing Restaurant App Trend A 70 percent positive increase on any other segment of your restaurant business would be cause or excitement.

New Google Backup and Sync Tool Gives Small Businesses More Cloud Power

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) just released a new app that could help businesses backup and sync files more efficiently. Backup and Sync is the aptly named application that will essentially replace parts of the existing Google Drive desktop apps for Mac and PC.

Bing Mobile Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Bing Mobile Ad Targeting, Gateway ’17 Make Small Business Headlines" was first published on Small Business Trends

 Small Business Reading List Articles You May Have Missed this Week

By Rieva Lesonsky

Best Practices




Inspiring Success Stories















The post 12 Hacks to Make Your Retail Store Profit From Tourists; 6 Things to Do Before You Start a Business With a Partner & More appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

Anyone who’s been checking this series over the years knows I attend a lot of CRM industry events. And, as we’re in the midst of wrapping up the spring conference season, there have been a flurry of events this month, including Bullhorn’s Engage — the user conference for the leading CRM platform for the staffing/recruiting industry servicing more than 7,000 companies.


I had the pleasure of speaking with Bullhorn founder and CEO Art Papas during the conference, where he shared his thoughts on why he feels all the AI talk is just that — talk, for now. He also shares why AI and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa will play a major role in CRM in the not-too-distant future.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview check out the embedded video and/or audio clips below.

* * * * *

The Future of AI For CRMSmall Business Trends: I’m back (in Boston) for Bullhorn Engage. I’m sitting here with the CEO and founder of Bullhorn, Art Papas. Art, thank you for joining me.

Art Papas: Thanks Brent. Thanks for coming to Boston.

Small Business Trends: You know, it’s almost starting to be like my second home all of a sudden. I’ve been here a couple times already. Like I said, we’re here for Bullhorn Engage, this is my first time checking it out. I’ve been really impressed, but just for folks who don’t necessarily know about Bullhorn, give me a little bit of your background, a little personal background and tell me a little bit about Bullhorn.

Art Papas: Okay. I’m the founder of the company. I started Bullhorn in 1999, back right before the dot-com bubble crashed. I was originally the Chief Technology Officer and became the CTO about 2002. We are based in Boston, with offices all over the world, have about 600 employees, growing very fast. We are a CRM platform that really specializes and focuses deep on the staffing and recruitment industry.

Small Business Trends: What’s important in staffing when it comes to CRM?

Art Papas: Staffing firms, recruitment firms are an interesting business in that there’s no product. They build relationships with customers, then they go build relationships with talent, and they try to make a match. It sounds relatively simple, but it’s a two-sided sales process that culminates with a lot of logistics and a lot of back and forth; A lot of documents trading hands like, “Here’s a resume, here’s a job description, this resume is a fit for this job description.”

They manage complex projects for their customers. It’s a really big challenge and you end up with things like deep search and match requirements, in terms of being able to take a document and reflect it against your database to say, “Who might be a fit for this job,” or vice versa, “I have a great candidate, which customers would be a fit for this candidate?”

Then there’s just a whole bunch of deep work flow that happens after a sale is made, around things like time and attendance tracking and document management and on-boarding, contract management …

Small Business Trends: Where do you see AI fitting in when it comes to staffing and engagement? How does AI impact in what you guys do for your customers?

Art Papas: I’m a realist and what I’ll say is nobody is really doing any Artificial Intelligence, yet. Everybody says they’ve got machine learning, but the reality is, as a true computer scientist, the best stuff that’s going on at Google is, you can take a bunch of images and turn it into a binary, multi-dimensional array and map it back and call that learning. But it’s all just predictive algorithms. At the end of the day, that’s what the state of the industry is, but I do believe that it’s advancing.

I think that natural language processing has reached a point where computers can generally understand what human beings are trying to say. Especially in a case where you know what they’re most likely to say, you can “fake it ’till you make it” and do exception management.

Art Papas: I think for recruitment, where it’s powerful is that it’s … for a stat, 65 percent of millennials would prefer to talk to a chat bot.

Small Business Trends: That’s pretty amazing.

Art Papas: It is amazing and you think of how much in the recruitment process people apply to jobs and nobody ever gets back to them. Low hanging fruit is, to have a chat bot, if they prefer it anyway. The chatbot can actually do what humans don’t like to do.

Small Business Trends: Break bad news, explain why …

Art Papas: Yeah, yeah. Human beings avoid that stuff. I think there’s actually huge opportunity to improve the customer experience in this industry using technology. I get excited about it and my customers yesterday were pretty fired up about it.

Small Business Trends: That’s an interesting thing you just mentioned because most people look at how AI can free up people … AI lacks empathy and it frees up people’s time [from doing mundane activities] to actually use their empathy. But, what you just said, AI actually adds empathy because a lot of folks don’t get the response after they spent a lot of time looking for jobs. They’ve spent a lot of time filling in applications and then they hear nothing back. You’re saying that actually, using a chatbot in this case is almost like being more empathetic because you’re giving them a response where they wouldn’t get one.

Art Papas: Especially if you care about your brand. You really have to invest something and technology could be the answer. I going to invest something in making sure that everybody who interacts with my brand has a great experience, regardless of whether or not there’s a transaction today.

Small Business Trends: Let’s ask the one last question. The voice. You talk about that’s coming and how you are starting to look at that as well.

Art Papas: I have an Alexa, a Google Home, and I have Siri. My daughter says, “Siri’s dumb.” But, I’m sure the HomePod, it will upgrade looks. Alexa is super useful and so is Google Home and I think that we’re now at a point where that the voice user interface will become strong. It’s not going to replace text. You’re not going to be in a meeting and say, “Hey, Siri, send John a text.” No, you’re not gonna do that; you’re still going to text that with your fingers. Until we have a telepathic user interface, I think that’s pretty far away.

Small Business Trends: Facebook is working on that, by the way …

Art Papas: They are, and someday we’ll have it. We’ll know what neurons are firing and what the heck they mean. But, right now, I think voice will become … especially when people are driving and they want to say for example … “I just met with a customer, please add a note to the system, and set a follow-up task, and move the stage of the opportunity, and tell my colleague, and do this, and do that.”

It’s a virtual assistant in the home, it’s going to be in the office, too. It’s funny because we used to hire salespeople in the early 2000’s salespeople … and I was always astounded salespeople come in and say, “Do I have an admin to do my CRM notes?” “No, no, of course not, nobody’s going to enter data into the CRM for you.” Now, maybe we should find those guys …

Small Business Trends: Come on back, we’ve got something for you.

Art Papas: Yeah, talk to Alexa, she’s your admin.

This article, "Art Papas of Bullhorn: 65 Percent of Millennials Would Rather Talk to Chatbots than Humans — So Why Not Let Them?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Google just released a new app that could help businesses backup and sync files more efficiently. Backup and Sync is the aptly named application that will essentially replace parts of the existing Google Drive desktop apps for Mac and PC.
23 Vote(s)

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

When it comes to fundamental goals, 23 percent of entrepreneurs in their 20s cited becoming more influential or having a positive impact on their communities.

It’s a considerable increase over the 13 percent of entrepreneurs over 50 who say the same.

The data shows a considerable difference in values between two generations of entrepreneurs,  says the 2017 HSBC Private Bank: Essence of Enterprise with a fairly comprehensive global survey of entrepreneurs from the two generations.

Each generation has a different take on life, both personal and professional. For millennials, another important consideration was to a work-life balance.

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

But certainly, one of the many places where millennials diverged from their counterparts from previous generations was in this strong desire to directly impact their communities. Compared to entrepreneurs aged 50+, this was important for one in four, or a quarter of millennials. For the older group it was one in 10.

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

This desire to have a positive impact was also mentioned as the biggest motivation in achieving influence. Millennials said it was more important than wealth, which was the opposite of what respondents in their 50s said.

In the report, Stuart Parkinson, Chief of Staff of HSBC (NYSE:HSBC) Private Banking highlighted the importance of understanding and supporting this group. He goes on to say:

“It is important that we understand the challenges faced by the next generation of entrepreneurs so we can support them as they create jobs and economic growth, as well as prosperity for themselves, their families and their communities.”

The survey also points out the differences between millennials around the world. Forty five percent of the entrepreneurs in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia indicated ‘personal wealth’ as the biggest reason for going into business. Across Europe it was 29 percent, with America coming in at 40 percent.

When it comes to gender, during a start-up women are motivated to achieve flexibility over their work-life, while men said their reason was financial.

As to what millennials are looking for, work-life balance, 83 percent of entrepreneurs worldwide said they have achieved it. For this group, according to the survey, this meant spending an average of 10.1 hours each day on business tasks.

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

The Survey

The second Essence of Enterprise report was carried out in 11 markets around the world, including the US, UK, Mainland China, Australia, UAE and others in September 2016. The online survey had 4,038 participants who were entrepreneurs, active decision-makers in privately-owned businesses or major shareholders.


As small business owner, millennials will make up increasingly larger numbers of your workforce and partners. Understanding what makes them tick will go a long way in creating an environment in which both employer, employee, partners and vendors can thrive.

Bearded Millennial Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "23 Percent of Millennial Entrepreneurs Value Influence Over Personal Wealth" was first published on Small Business Trends

If you had the chance to live your life over again, what would you do differently? Most small business owners wouldn’t change a thing—at least, not when it comes to their businesses.

Some 82% of small business owners in the most recent SurePayroll Scorecard have no regrets about when they started their businesses; in fact, 10% wish they had started their businesses earlier. Only 3% wish they had waited for the economy to improve before starting their businesses.

The small business owners who participated in the nationwide survey are happy with their businesses today, and 80% are optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy in general. However, these entrepreneurs also admit there were some things they didn’t expect when they started out.

  • Almost three in 10 respondents (28%) say the economy has had a much bigger impact on their business than they ever expected.
  • 24% say they didn’t realize the toll business ownership would take on their personal lives and health.
  • 21% say changing government regulations had an unexpectedly large effect on their businesses.
  • 10% say their business location had a bigger effect on their business than they expected.

What do small business owners wish they had understood better when they started their businesses? The top answers are:

  • Administrative and regulatory requirements (34%)
  • How to hire the right people (26%)
  • How to better manage their time (19%)
  • The need for capital and how to raise it (14%)

It’s also important to thoroughly understand what you’re up against when starting a business. More than one-quarter (26%) of respondents say a better understanding of customer behavior would have been helpful when they launched their companies. Sixteen percent wish they had known more about customer demand for their service or product; many also wished they had a better understanding of the competitive landscape earlier.

If you haven’t yet started your business or are still in the planning stages, take a lesson from the entrepreneurs in the survey:

1. Do your homework

You think you’ve got a great idea, but will your customers think so, too? Conduct market research to see who your competitors are, what your target customers are like and whether they will actually buy your product or service.

RELATED: Starting a Business: Should You Reinvent an Existing Industry?

2. Know the administrative and regulatory requirements you need to meet

These can range from licenses and permits to local zoning regulations and record-keeping requirements. Once you’re up and running, keep on top of changes to local, state and federal government regulations that affect your business.

3. Have adequate capital

Insufficient capital is a key reason for business failure. Create a budget and financial projections for your new business, and figure out where you can save money and where you need to spend. Don’t forget to take your own income into account: You may have to go without a salary for a year or longer until your business starts making a profit.

4. Watch economic indicators

Keeping tabs on the local, regional and national economy, as well as the world economy, will help you plan for the future of your business. It will also help you make smarter decisions about everything from the suppliers you choose to the types of employees you hire.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of location

I’ve seen some great businesses fail solely because they chose a location that didn’t have enough foot traffic or lacked adequate parking. If the rent on a location seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for that.

6. Make time for yourself

Entrepreneurship is all-encompassing and can eat up 24 hours of your day if you let it. But in order for your business to thrive and grow, you’ve got to be mentally and physically fit. Manage your time wisely, being sure to set aside enough hours in the day for rest, exercise, a healthy diet and time with the people you care about.

7. Last, but not least, get help

One-quarter (25%) of respondents regretted not experiencing the benefits of having a great mentor. A good mentor can make your life so much easier — he or she can help you cut through red tape, get the capital you need, find the perfect location and more. Two of my favorite places to get business advice are from the experts at SCORE and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Both organizations provide free business consulting from experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals. Find your local office online to learn more.

(Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company.)

RELATED: Starting a Business? The 5 Most Important Things You Need to Know

The post 7 Startup Lessons From Successful Small Business Owners appeared first on

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By Brooke Chaplan

Growing your small business may have been a top goal that you have worked hard to achieve over the years. Now that business is booming, you understandably may be feeling some significant growing pains. Many small businesses are poorly equipped to handle a sudden and sharp spike in demand or in the ability to handle the increased supply that is required to meet that demand. While you may be stressed about how to handle your current situation, the good news is that there are a few steps you can take to more easily manage the growth and take advantage of enhanced profits in the process.

Hire a Fulfillment Center to Handle the Demand

One of your most significant challenges associated with the increased demand may relate to having enough manpower in-house to complete the required tasks in a timely manner. You also may not have enough space available to complete the required tasks in-house. A smart idea is to use a fulfillment center to handle the increased demand. When you outsource the work to a reputable company, you can rest assured that all of your orders will be completed promptly so that your customers can be served as needed. There are several cost-effective and reliable fulfillment services that you can consider using.

Explore Alternative Suppliers

There may be instances when some suppliers are not equipped to keep up with the increased demand that you have for parts and materials. You must always think ahead and communicate openly with your suppliers. Verify that they have the in-house capability to meet your increased demand, and always have a backup plan to turn to if some of your suppliers are no longer able to fully meet all of your needs. Having a backup plan in place can prevent the incidence of having a lag in production if supplies are not available from one of your suppliers.

Hire Part-Time or Contract Labor

While you may hire a fulfillment center to assist with some of your tasks, you may still need additional support inside the office, such as in human resources, accounting, marketing and other areas. You could hire a full-time team to support your growing needs, but this is often burdensome to your budget. Furthermore, you may not be certain that you have an on-going need for a full-time employee or enough work to fill an entire 40-hour work week on a regular basis. Consider hiring a part-time or contract laborer to assist with some tasks as a cost-effective alternative.

Examine Financial Solutions

Financial challenges can be intense when your business is growing rapidly, and this is particularly true if you operate on an invoice-based accounts receivable process. You may need to dramatically increase in-house support and infrastructure as well as purchase more supplies and equipment, but you may not have an increase in accounts receivable income for several months. You must find a way to pay your higher current bills in a timely manner, and there are several funding sources to think about. For example, applying for a small business loan or taking out a loan on your invoices may be good ideas. Crowdfunding and silent partners may also work well to address your current financial needs.

How you manage your current growth can play a major role in the overall success of your company. You must actively create a strategic plan to handle the growth that you are experiencing, and these are all great ideas to consider when addressing specific growth-related issues. Because each situation is unique, you should determine your needs and analyze your budget. You should also think ahead and plan for even more growth so that you are prepared for the future.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

The post Supply & Demand: 4 Small Business Solutions for Manageable Growth appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses

With billions of dollars’ worth in annual sales, gas stations are big business in the United States. Gas station franchises offer the chance for individuals to jump on the gasoline retail bandwagon and run a busy and profitable business.

Small Business Trends takes a look at 16 gas station franchise businesses throughout the U.S.

Gas Station Franchise Businesses to Consider 7-Eleven Franchises

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - 7-Eleven Franchises

7-Eleven has more than 8,600 convenience stores, many of which have gas stations, across the U.S. 7-Eleven aims to make franchising easy and convenient. The company provides a turnkey solution, meaning they deliver everything franchisees need to run their business. 7-Eleven franchise stores come fully operational.

Franchisees are required to pay an initial franchise fee, which varies by store, as well as a down payment on the store’s opening inventory of approximately $20,000.


16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - AMPM

Founded in California in 1978, AMPM rapidly grew and now boasts hundreds of combination gas stations and convenience stores throughout the U.S.

The financial requirements for an AMPM franchise includes an initial investment of between $400,509 and $7,807,883 and a liquid cash sum of $800,000 – $1,200,000. In-class sessions and hands-on training is provided with AMPM gas station and convenience store franchises.

Circle K

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Circle K

Circle K franchises are located in more than 20 different states throughout North America. These convenience stores and gas station franchises offer a lucrative business opportunity for investors. An initial investment fee of $211,450 – $1,601,500 is required, as well as ongoing franchise fees of $25,000 – $25,000.

Circle K offers financing options to cover equipment costs with third-party sources.

LUKOIL Franchise Gas Station

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - LUKOIL Franchise Gas Station

Franchisees have the opportunity to own LUKOIL franchise gas stations in various locations. LUKOIL offers visionary entrepreneurs the opportunity to operate an independent business in the family of the LUKOIL brand.

Street Corner

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Street Corner

Street Corner was set up in 1988 and has been franchising since 1995. An initial investment of $45,645 – $1,479,800 is required for a Street Corner franchise and franchisees must make a net-worth of $100,000.

Financing options are available from third party sources, which cover the cost of the franchise fee, equipment, start-up costs, accounts receivable, inventory and payroll.

Sunoco APlus

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Sunoco APlus

Sunoco APlus convenience stores and gas stations are located all along the east coast of the U.S. and west into New York and Ohio. Sunoco APlus offers franchise opportunities for investors wanting to run their own convenience and gas store.

Franchise candidates are assessed on their business experience and abilities, financial strength and personal drive. The total estimated investment for a Sunoco APlus franchise is $25,000 to $600,000.

Alliance Energy

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Alliance Energy

Alliance Energy offers the opportunity to lease gas stations at numerous locations in the company’s northeast footprint.

Successful franchise applicants will be given all the necessary tools and logistics to create and sustain their business.

Dash In

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Dash In

Dash In provides franchising opportunities for its gas stations and convenience stores across the U.S. Dash In gas been franchising since 1979 and has 58 franchise units available. Total investments of $138.6 – $187.2K is required. Financing options are available for Dash In franchises.

Express Convenience

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Express Convenience

Express Convenience has been franchising since 1984. The gas station and convenience store franchise has a total of 19 franchise units located in the Midwest. With a $165 – $200,000 total investment, franchisees are provided with training to help their business. Financing is available for Express Convenience franchises.


16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Marathon

Marathon brand gas stations with convenience stores are available to franchise across the U.S. In fact, Marathon stations are primarily owned and ran by independent entrepreneurs. In 2015, Marathon brand retail outlets sold around 5.02 billion gallons of vehicle fuel. Franchisees can benefit from the Marathon brand’s experience and leadership support, designed to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary skills for growth.

Kangaroo Express Convenience

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Kangaroo Express Convenience

The Pantry is a leading convenience store operator in south-eastern United states. The pantry has around 1,500 stores in 13 states. Kangaroo Express is the Pantry’s principle operating banner. Franchises are available to operate Kangaroo Express gas stations for successful candidates.

Quik Stop

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Quik Stop

Quik Stop Markets offer quality fuel and convenience product shopping in more than 100 locations within Northern California and Northern Nevada.

The Quik Stop franchise offers motivated entrepreneurs the opportunity to run their own retail and gas station store. Quik Stop franchise business owners receive classroom and in-store training, marketing support, promotional advertising, bookkeeping and accounting assistance and ongoing business consultation.

Murphy USA

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Murphy USA

Murphy USA is a nationally-recognized brand and gives franchise owners the opportunity to use their existing professional experience and skills to build a thriving convenience store and gas station business.

Liquid capital of $100,000 plus is required to be a Murphy USA franchisee. Successful applicants must have already been self-employed or have held a management level position.

On the Run

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - On the Run

On the Run convenience stores are franchised with TMC Franchise corporation, a subsidiary of alimentation Couche-Tard.

As well as offering typical convenience store products and gas, On the Run gas stations offer fresh snacks, quick meal options, health and beauty supplies and more.

A total investment fee of $50,000 is required, with liquid assets available of $100,000.


16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Shell

Shell is one of the world’s biggest names in petroleum. In the United States, Shell has a network of strategically-located local service stations, offering convenience retailing as well as a variety of fuel products.

for suitable candidates. Successful applicants are required to have at least 10 percent unencumbered cash of the total capital required for investment. Financial institutions can be approached to franchisees to obtain a loan for the funding.

Extra Mile

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Extra Mile

ExtraMile’s convenience store and gas stations combination offers the world-recognized Chevron gasoline brand with retail food outlets. The ExtraMile franchise brand was established in 2007 and has gone on to expand to more than 200 stores.

Successful candidates for an ExtraMile franchisee recieve support from the Chevron Corporation in areas training, advertising, ongoing business advice and mechanizing. The estimated total investment to buy and manage an ExtraMile station franchise is $1.5 – $2.5 million.

If you’ve got the drive, commitment, motivation and financial means, becoming a gas station franchisee with any of the above franchise companies, could prove to be the lucrative business investment you are looking for.

Gas Station Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Tips for Marketing in China

So you’re interested in selling in China? Great! There are plenty of opportunities for companies looking to expand into the Chinese market, according to speakers at Alibaba’s Gateway ‘17 event this week.

But it’s not as easy as just listing some products and arranging shipments to China. You actually have to learn how to market to Chinese consumers.

Small Business Trends attended the inaugural Gateway’17 event June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Here’s a report from the conference with tips for marketing products in China according to Gateway ‘17’s speakers and experts.

Tips for Marketing in China Tell Your Brand Story

“Chinese consumers want to hear your brand story,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group in a presentation Wednesday.

That means they want to buy from brands they feel connected to. Especially if you’re importing products, you have to build some kind of trust by sharing information about your brand, both in your store and through other methods.

So don’t simply put your products out there and expect them to sell themselves. You need to provide great products and a great brand in order for Chinese consumers to trust you enough to buy.

Decorate Your Store

If you’re selling products on Tmall, which is a good strategy since it’s the most popular marketplace among Chinese consumers, then you have a lot of options for sharing more information about your products and your brand.

Within Tmall and other marketplaces, you can customize your store completely. Add your own branding elements, product updates and other content. This can help your storefront stand out and also keep customers coming back for more.

Tips for Marketing in China

Update Your Feed

One of the most popular features on Tmall is the news feed, which you can use to “decorate” your store. This is similar to what you might be used to on social media sites like Facebook. You can share new products and company updates regularly.

According to Chande, young people on Tmall log in and look at news feeds from their favorite stores up to seven times a day. So making those updates interesting and appealing to Chinese shoppers could potentially spur a lot of sales.

Utilize Live Streaming

Live streaming is another marketing tool available on Tmall. And it can be a powerful way to build up some brand trust by showing the actual people behind your brand or the product in action. You can share a company event, new product release or even tutorials related to your offering.

Take Advantage of Shopping Holidays

In China, there are shopping holidays just like there are in the U.S. But the actual holidays are different. So don’t just discount your products on Cyber Monday and expect tons of sales. Do some research on the popular holidays in China and the promotions available on platforms like Tmall.

For example, November 11 is known as “Singles Day” in China (because of all the 1’s in 11/11). An answer to Valentine’s Day, Singles Day is all about buying yourself gifts or buying small items for friends. It’s a major opportunity for any business that sells in China.

Try Bundling or Unique Discounts

Like customers anywhere, Chinese customers love a great deal. So discounts and promotions can be a great way to get some attention for your products.

Sam Wolf, founder of LuckyVitamin, a brand that has found success selling on Tmall said of the company’s customers in China, “They love getting a good bargain. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re just looking for rock bottom prices. But they want to feel like they’re getting a good deal when they buy something.”

So it’s not just about cutting prices. But if you can offer a unique promotion or create some bulk discounts so customers can see more value in their purchases, it could be worthwhile.

Tips for Marketing in China

Do Your Research

It’s also important, no matter what actual marketing methods you use, to do research about your customers and market beforehand. There are plenty of cultural and logistical differences that come with selling in China. So you need to do research and work with partners who can help you understand the landscape.

Overall, you need to have patience and make sure to do your due diligence instead of jumping right in. Marketing and selling in China isn’t something that just anyone can do. You need to be really dedicated to it in order to succeed.

Michael Zakkour, Vice President of China/APAC and global eCommerce practices for Tompkins International said in a discussion at the Gateway’17 event, “In China, everything is possible. But nothing is easy.”

Offer Personalized Service

Your customer service is also part of your marketing in China. Chinese consumers expect fast shipping and answers to all of their questions, according to Wolf. So you need to consider your shipping time and customer service availability to be part of your marketing efforts and make it a priority.

Create Virtual Shopping Experiences

Tmall also offers opportunities for sellers to take advantage of new technology like virtual reality and augmented reality in order to create unique experiences for customers.

For example, if you have a unique retail location and also sell online, you could offer a virtual shopping experience that lets customers feel like they’re actually walking around your store when they’re shopping online. Or you could use augmented reality to help customers make buying decisions, like trying on virtual makeup or arranging virtual furniture in a photo of your living room.

Keep Up With New Technology

And that’s just the beginning of the possibilities that technology offers to businesses selling in China. Tmall and other marketplaces are constantly working to update their offerings. So you need to keep up with those trends and adapt with them if you’re going to stay relevant with customers in China.

Shopping on Taobao Photo via Shutterstock

Other Images: Small Business Trends/Annie Pilon

This article, "10 Smart Tips for Marketing Your Brand to Chinese Consumers – #Gateway17" was first published on Small Business Trends

While many businesses tend to ebb and flow into different seasons, businesses like beachfront businesses, ski schools, and summer camps have defined seasons when they are open and doing business. Owning a seasonal business requires a business owner to be skilled at budgeting, great at hiring and training people, and especially adept at managing the financial implications of fluctuating cash flow.

While there are challenges associated with owning a seasonal business, there are also advantages. Because employees are hired only for a season, there’s no need to make payroll all year long. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the need for cash flow entirely disappears; the owners of seasonal businesses know they need to manage their revenues to meet their financial obligations (including paying themselves) throughout the year.

I have a friend who guides at a fishing lodge in Alaska that is only open four months of the year. The lodge generates its annual income during those four months, and all the staff and employees go to Alaska just for the season and return to wherever they’re from to do something else for the remainder of the year.

With the exception of the owners, who take reservations for the next season, maintain the lodge’s website, and prepare for the next year, my friend says no one else gets paid during the off-season—and he likes this arrangement. He earns enough income to support himself throughout the year and is able to pursue other opportunities, such as running a snowmobile touring business in what Alaskan’s call the “Lower 48” during the winter. It works for him.

If you’re going to run a “beachfront” or seasonal business, there are some unique and specific things you need to consider, and some skills you can’t do without. Here are six of them:

You have to hire the right people

Even though there can be challenges associated with hiring seasonal employees, you still need to make sure you hire the right people. I learned a long time ago that you shouldn’t simply hire the best person who shows up to the interview, you need to make sure you hire the right person for the job. This can be particularly challenging when the economy is generally strong, unemployment is low, and seasonal jobs are harder to fill.

That being said, my fishing guide friend is a good example of a highly-skilled employee who returns to the same job season after season. He earns enough during the season to keep the wolves at bay the rest of the year, the lodge has a great atmosphere for him and the other guides, and the tips are good. This might not apply directly to a beachfront store, but there are things you can do to keep the right seasonal employees interested in returning for more than one season—which will make it easier for your business.

In other words, make sure you ask for references, do background checks, and thoroughly vet every potential employee to make sure you’re getting the best employees you possibly can. And, unless they will make incredible employees, avoid the temptation to hire family members or friends simply because you know them and they need a job.

RELATED: 5 Questions to Ask Potential Seasonal Employees

Training employees is critically important

Although your seasonal employees will only be working for a few months out of the year, that doesn’t mean you can scrimp on training. In fact, if you’re hiring new employees every year, proper training may even be more important if you don’t have a lot of employees that return season after season. You may even want to consider a formal training program that every employee must complete before you set them loose on your customers each year.

Use your downtime wisely

Even though the business is closed and your employees are gone for the year, that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do to wrap up the season that just ended, ramp up for the upcoming season, or make improvements for the next year. Of course, many small business owners already take on the role of chief cook and bottle washer, but this is particularly true for business owners who close their businesses for the season and take on all the day-to-day responsibilities that still need to be handled even when customers aren’t around. This includes things like keeping up on building maintenance, ordering inventory for next season, hiring new employees, answering phones, responding to emails, and more.

Even if the business does not require your full-time attention, that doesn’t mean you can waste any of your downtime. I have a friend who earns his living operating a haunted house, which is only open for a couple of months every year, but requires attention all year long to be ready for the next season. He seems to always be busy doing something to get ready for the next year—whether it’s working with contractors doing maintenance on his space, making improvements in the haunted house, or hiring and training employees in preparation for the upcoming two months of his season.

Think local

As you stock inventory for your store, it’s common, for example, for a beachfront store to stock things like sunscreen, sunglasses, beachwear, and beach towels. Choosing locally-made products to sell in your store might be a good way to set your business apart while supporting local producers who will then likely support your business.

When I’m on the road, I’m always more interested in something less generic and widely available; I often look for items from the region that I’m visiting. Take a lesson from the Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealers all across the country who probably generate as much revenue selling T-shirts which feature their local dealerships as they do selling motorcycles.

As you consider your inventory needs for the season, don’t succumb to the temptation to keep this year’s leftover inventory for next year. Even merchandise you believe “never gets old” does, so putting last year’s inventory on the shelf this year might not be the best use of space. Make sure you’re maximizing the value of all your shelf space with the most current and saleable merchandise.

Make hay while it’s time to make hay

In other words, although it might be a good idea to try to generate additional income during the off-season (and many seasonal businesses try to do that), it could be an even better idea to consider ways to boost your revenues while customers are in your store and ready to buy. Are there complementary items you don’t currently stock that you could offer to boost sales, would staying open an extra hour increase revenue, or would hiring an additional employee enable you to serve more customers and make the cash register ring a few more times each day?

I’ve always been of the opinion that there are really only three ways to increase sales revenue: increase the number of customers you serve, get the customers you have to purchase more, or some combination of the two. The number of customers visiting your beachfront store can fluctuate with conditions sometimes out of your control, but it is possible to offer additional products to get those customers you have now to spend more. My grandpa’s advice to make hay while it’s time to make hay is good advice for a seasonal business.

You may also consider investing in preseason marketing to encourage potential customers to visit your business. Look at other beachfront stores or seasonal businesses in your area that offer complementary products or services, and co-op your advertising dollars to encourage their customers to visit you and your customers to visit them. By sharing advertising expenses and leveraging each other’s traffic, it could be a good investment for both of your businesses.

Don’t neglect your credit profiles

I’m talking about your business credit profile as well as your personal credit score. Both have an impact when your business is being evaluated for a potential small business loan. Most people have a pretty good understanding about how their personal credit score works, but are less familiar with their business credit profile. For most small business owners, the need to maintain a good personal credit score will likely never go away, even when the business’s credit profile is probably a better indication of how the business meets its business credit obligations.

The best way to start positively impacting your business profile is to regularly review it. All the major credit bureaus will give you access to your profile (sometimes for a small fee). What’s more, looking at your profile every month is not too frequent, and since we tend to impact the information we pay the most attention to, business owners who are regularly reviewing their business credit profiles tend to see regular improvement.

Seasonal businesses sometimes rely on borrowed capital to help them bridge from one season to the next, so a strong credit profile becomes very important should your business need a little extra capital. While it may not be a guarantee you’ll get the financing you’re looking for, it will give you more options as you look for a small business loan.

RELATED: Secrets to Managing Cash Flow in a Seasonal Small Business

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Thriving businesses tend to be innovation-averse. Since many already found success using the tech tools they currently have, business leaders tend to be skeptical of the benefits of emerging technologies. Most just don’t see the reason behind overhauling their existing, effective systems – expending numerous resources in the process – when they might safely make as much profit as they are.

For example, when it comes to payment technologies, just 3 percent of SMBs bother with mobile payment options, like Apple and Android Pay. In fact, years after the U.S.’s transition to EMV cards, only about 28 percent of businesses are equipped to scan chips – and among those that can’t, 64 percent doubt they ever would implement the new tech, regardless of how much more secure it would make their business.

Successful SMBs are hesitant to integrate new tech, but many new entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of refusing technology. Many industries are ruthless to competing businesses, and in many cases, the only way nascent business leaders can find a foothold is by embracing promising tech. While existing execs struggle to adopt technology, emerging entrepreneurs can more easily pivot their business plans to benefit from tech with the following significant advantages:

Streamlines Office Processes and Provides New Work Opportunities

The only way new entrepreneurs with new startups can survive in competitive markets is by being faster and more agile than their large, lumbering competitors. In large, established businesses, nearly every business decision requires approval upon approval, so projects can take twice longer (or more) than necessary to complete. For such companies to implement technological change, it could cost millions and require months of upheaval, lowering productivity even further.

Conversely, startups and small businesses have fewer layers of management and less to lose by experimenting with new tech. In fact, adding tech might give the company more power to complete projects even faster. This offers SMBs opportunities to acquire new clients and expand into new fields sooner than their tech-less competitors did. Thus, tech provides a competitive edge to entrepreneurs who might otherwise have blunt and ineffectual businesses.

Eases Customer Interactions and Creates New Ways to Make Sales


Communication is perhaps the most vital skill to any business. Time and again, history shows that business leaders blessed with the gift of effortless communication succeed, while their quiet, awkward, and dishonest peers fail – or at least fall behind.

As mentioned before, communication is not easy in large businesses; even with the aid of technologies like email and instant messaging, it can take days for important notes to reach the right people. Conversely, small businesses can establish effective communication from the start, reaching employees quickly using a variety of useful tech. Flexible SMBs were the first to create truly mobile workforces by adopting devices and software that allowed employees to work wherever, whenever. As a result, an entrepreneur’s entire staff is fully connected and able to contribute to business goals.

Further, a culture of enhanced communication tech can help startups better reach and influence target audiences. For example, instead of fitting social media into a preexisting marketing campaign, entrepreneurs can lay social media pages as foundations for their long-term marketing strategies. Undoubtedly, the future will bring new social media options that younger, newer entrepreneurs can exploit while older, duller businesses blunder without it.

Saves Money by Increasing Productivity and Automating Processes

Large companies are powerful because they have hundreds (or thousands) of workers dedicated to achieving business goals. Within such organizations, millions of human-hours are worked every day in pursuit of success. Large companies can support such massive workforces because they are pulling in massive profits – but the same cannot be said of startups.

Brand-new businesses lack the funding to cultivate hordes of workers, which means they must rely on technology to increase their productivity enough to be competitive. Fortunately, SMBs can rely on machine learning and automation to supplement their employees’ work. Instead of bringing on new employees – each of which cost between six to nine months’ salary just to hire and train – new entrepreneurs can keep their teams small and nimble by relying on smart technologies, instead.

Perhaps the most important lesson for new entrepreneurs is not that technology is vital in a business’s beginning stages, but rather that business leaders should remain open-minded to technology even after carving a niche and establishing success. Technology is good, especially for businesses, and new technology offers greater opportunities for everyone.

The post Why New Entrepreneurs Must Embrace New Tech   appeared first on

Best Sales Techniques You’re Not Using … Yet!

When it comes to , you must employ the right techniques.

But what are the best sales techniques to use to meet your goal? A new report by sales acceleration software provider InsideSales highlights sales techniques you’re probably not using today — yet.

Best Sales Techniques

No two businesses are the same. But when it comes to lead generation, some techniques are effective for almost all businesses.

Best Strategies for Lead Generation

Data shows (83 percent) are clearly the most widely adopted strategy for lead generation. They are followed by email marketing (74 percent) and LinkedIn (69 percent).

Interestingly, blogs (8 percent) and LinkedIn (7 percent) have seen the biggest increases in adoption since 2013.

Inside Sales Has Gained Momentum

More sales and marketing leaders (13 percent) say they are willing to try inside sales more than any other method this year.

What’s more, 93 percent of sales and marketing leaders who currently use inside sales say they plan to continue using it.

Underutilized Techniques You Might Want to Consider

It’s worth noting that some sales techniques are proving to be effective, despite not being used widely by most businesses. Take small executive events and partner relationships, for instance.

The InsideSales report found both executive events (79 percent) and partner relationships (77 percent) effective but less-adopted.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, was found to be well adopted although leaders didn’t believe it was effective at creating brand awareness.

Time to Take Another Look at LinkedIn?

It’s evident that businesses are focusing a lot of their energies on LinkedIn. But is it really helping businesses achieve their goals?

The InsideSales report shows LinkedIn has not been effective at generating pipeline compared to other methods. As a small business owner, you might want to take a fresh look at your LinkedIn strategy to improve leads.

About the Study

Utah-based surveyed 678 sales and marketing leaders for this study. To gather data, sought this group’s opinion on key issues regarding marketing tactics, brand management, lead generation, pipeline creation and marketing challenges.

Business Sale Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Best Sales Techniques You’re Not Using … Yet!" was first published on Small Business Trends

Failure Is Relative Business Cartoon

Sometimes cartoons just appear seemingly out of thin air.

I was listening to the business report on the radio and someone prefaced a statement with ‘if by that you mean …’.

Immediately I said, aloud to myself mind you, ‘if by profits you mean …’ and then I went to the dictionary.

Now, there are quite a few definitions of profits, but this one seemed the funniest.

So, yeah, sometimes cartoons let themselves in and you both sit down and have a good laugh over coffee. Not often, but it’s nice when they do.

This article, "Redefining the Meaning of Success" was first published on Small Business Trends

If you want to become a good marketer, you have to understand marketing. More importantly, you need to understand how your business works and how to create a marketing strategy for your specific business. What works for one business won't work for another.
18 Vote(s)

Ways to Handle Divorce with a Business Involved

Kim Leach and her ex-husband were high-school sweethearts. But after 21 years together — 16 of them wedded — a series of rough patches led to their divorce. With two kids, a house that they’d almost paid off and years of accumulated belongings, the split was bound to be painful and time-consuming.

And there was another wrinkle: The couple jointly owned a small business.

There’s no recent research on the exact number of couple-owned businesses, but in 2000, some 3 million of the 22 million U.S. small businesses were managed by couples.

For these couples, . “When dealing with your ex-spouse, it adds an extreme layer of complication to every decision,” says Shawn Leamon, a certified divorce financial analyst.

Ways to Handle Divorce with a Business Involved

Leamon helped Nerdwallet identify three common ways joint owners might deal with a business during the divorce process, and when to consider each.

1. The Buyout

A buyout, the most common way couples divvy up business assets during a divorce, allows one person to become the sole owner by buying the other’s portion of the business. This can be done either as a “bulk” buyout, using cash reserves or a business loan, or by setting up a payment plan over a certain time period.

Leach took this route, and her husband bought her out of their Oklahoma fitness center. But she was focused on getting custody of her kids and ignored her lawyer’s advice: to have the business appraised and charge interest during the agreed-upon seven-year buyout period.

Instead, she estimated the business’s value at $100,000 and agreed to a $50,000 buyout over seven years with no interest. The business turned out to be worth closer to $200,000 or $250,000.

“Fear overwhelmed me too much,” says Leach, who acknowledges that her conservative approach stemmed from a fear of rocking the boat. “I’m a very confident woman … but when you’re in that situation, everything is an unknown, so you do gamble a little bit.”


If you can, pay for a neutral appraisal: Business appraisals can be expensive, ranging from a couple thousand dollars to more than $30,000, but Leamon says they’re worth it. It’s easy to under- or overvalue a business, and hiring a neutral party helps ensure a fair deal for everyone.

Consider the future: The longer the payment period, the more likely it is that the spouse who keeps the business will default on payments or shut it down. In her book, “The Little Divorce Survivor’s Handbook,” Leach says that if she could do it over again, she’d negotiate an upfront buyout instead of an installment plan. “You can’t foretell the future,” she says. “You need to plan like this is all you’ve got coming your way.”

2. The Compromise

A riskier option involves running the business as usual, with both parties maintaining control of the company. If you and your ex try this tactic, it’s crucial to develop defined business roles and clear expectations.

It might also be a good idea to review your business structure and legal documents to make sure they reflect your position in the company.

In Leamon’s opinion, staying in business together is the least ideal scenario. A financial advisor since 2010, he says he’s never seen this strategy work in the long term.

“You’re getting divorced for a reason,” he says. “When trying to maintain and run a business together, it adds an extraordinary amount of stress.”


Leave the personal at home: Your relationship with your ex is now strictly business. Work isn’t the time or place to bring around the new boyfriend or girlfriend, or even discuss those new relationships, Leamon says.

Review your legal documents: This is especially important come tax time, when your divorce might impact federal business taxes.

3. The Walk Away

Divorce is a good time to start fresh in your personal and business lives. If you decide to move on to a new venture, you and your ex can either sell the company to a third party or close up shop.

Selling a business is messier than you might think. It can take time to find a buyer, and the longer the divorce process takes, the more likely it is that something — your relationship, the business, the economy — will take a turn for the worse.

If your company is a franchise, it likely has specific requirements for future owners, which can narrow your candidate field and lengthen the selling process further.

Having a personal connection to the business can also make it hard to sell. So in certain circumstances, shutting down may be the best option. Small businesses often carry a heavy debt load, Leamon says. “Sometimes it’s cleaner to close it than try to dig yourself out of a giant hole.”


Think beyond cash: You can split profits from a sale 50/50, but your share can also be factored into the overall settlement. Can’t decide who gets the lake house? Consider trading your profit for the vacation home.

Keep it clean: If you decide to close your business, tie up loose ends first. “Business issues, when not properly closed, can haunt you for years,” Leamon says. It’s not as simple as just signing a few documents; you should also review potential issues such as back taxes and lawsuits.

Regardless of the outcome, Leamon stresses the importance of finding a workable agreement. “If you can’t resolve it between your attorneys and you, a judge will decide what ultimately has to happen,” he says. “If you can’t come up with a solution, a solution will be forced on you.”

To navigate the process, try mediation or enlist the help of a divorce advisor to make sure you’re not saddled with an outcome that neither of you desires.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Business Couple Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Apply These 3 Strategies When Dealing with the Ex in Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

In the heart of Istanbul, where I was born and raised, is the Hagia Sophia, a breathtakingly beautiful monument with a storied history. Over the centuries it has been a cathedral, a mosque, and a museum. When you stand inside, you see Arabic calligraphy alongside Christian relics. From afar you see its minarets surrounding a Byzantine church. While each visitor identifies in her own way with the Hagia Sophia, it gives everyone a sense of wonder.   

For me, the month of Ramadan is similar. It’s a month when Muslims take time to reflect on their own paths of personal and spiritual growth. While this experience is unique to each individual, the act of giving back to one’s community is shared by Muslims the world over. In Turkey there is an expression: “We are created equally, but our lots in life are given differently.” During Ramadan, Muslims from all walks of life help those in their own communities who are less fortunate.

In this spirit, I want to share the story of Russell Khan, the co-founder of Honest Chops, an organic butcher shop in New York. Honest Chops, like countless other Muslim-owned businesses this Ramadan, is giving back to its community by donating 10,000 pounds of meat to local nonprofits. Particularly heartwarming for me is that Google’s free online business listing—which allowed Honest Chops to be found on Search and Maps—helped Russell grow his business and his impact.

I’m proud that Google played a role in helping Russell grow his business. Digital skills—social media, building a website or putting a business on the map—empower people to bring their ideas to life in and for their communities. That’s why Google provides digital skills training in countries around the world. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where I work, we’ve trained 5 million people in digital skills since 2014, and 40 percent of those participants are women. Think of how many people could benefit from a Russell in their community. You can learn more about getting your business online at

As the month of Ramadan comes to an end, I encourage us all to reflect on the meaning of community. The values of this holiday transcend all religions and cultures, and I hope they inspire you as much as they inspire me—and Russell.

Ramazan'ınız mübarek olsun. Happy Ramadan!

[Author: Yonca Dervisoglu Brunini]

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma says China is shifting from exporting to importing and China is going to to be the world’s largest consumption place and that engine is going to drive the world economy.

Ma said this during Gateway ’17, the e-commerce giant’s biggest public event in the US, where he addressed 3,000 small business owners and urged them not only to import from China, but also to sell to China.

Back in January, Ma even told President Donald Trump that within five years Alibaba could create 1 million US jobs for small businesses that sell goods to Chinese consumers.

Looking at China’s balance of trade there do not seem to be any indications that China is shifting to become a net importer.

China middle class is growing and by 2030-2040 China’s middle class should fully materialize.

When many people think of marketing, they think of advertising. However, business leaders want their potential customer base to know more about who they are and what they do—more information than can be explained in a simple ad. Entrepreneurs want to be seen as experts in their field, and this can be achieved through content marketing.

For tips on how to make content marketing a key part of your business, we asked members from FounderSociety this question:

Q. What’s one way I can successfully and seamlessly promote my brand through content marketing? 1. Add value

Provide added value to your customers throughout the marketing process and you will be well on your way to successfully building your brand. You can offer information, tips, tricks, humor—whatever fits your market and provides customers with a solution. This is what we’re all in business for: to provide a solution. Adding value builds credibility, trust, and brand awareness. —Angela DelmedicoElev8 Consulting Group


2. Schedule, syndicate, analyze, improve

It’s an iterative process. Start with scheduling content on a weekly basis for your blog. Next, syndicate it out to social media and content networks. Check your analytics, such as bounce rate, page views, behavior flows, and leads generated. Keep it up as you’ll only get better at understanding your audience, conversion ratios, and where you can improve. —O. Liam WrightTrue Interaction

3. Influencers are your friends

Find out who the major influencers are in your industry, and try reaching out to them. Foster working relationships with them, and when you publish a new piece of content, pass it their way to share with their followers. Approach them as a fan and colleague rather than someone who’s trying to sell a product. They already get flooded with sales pitches on a daily basis, so you need to stand out. —Steven BuchwaldBuchwald & Associates

RELATED: How to Find and Successfully Work With Influencers

4. Create ambassadors through referral and affiliate programs

With so many consumers being actively involved within social networks and other platforms where they can contribute content, giving your existing (happy) customer base incentive to become ambassadors for your brand is an easy way to exponentially reach more people through a trusted source as opposed to a paid media channel. —Justin MoodleyLASANAN

5. Value long-term relationships

Make your brand strategy a by-product of engaging your customers while building a relationship. Be consistent in the value you provide with your content, its delivery, and persona—defining your brand voice. People are inundated with advertisements on a daily basis; the goal of content marketing is not to sell (although indirectly you will) but to become a trusted brand in your competitive space. —Ryan MeghdiesTastic Marketing

6. Show you know your customers

The best way to promote your brand with content marketing is by knowing your customers’ interests and needs. Make a list of the questions they ask and conversations they have around the problems you solve. Use these questions as the topics of your blog posts and then connect with your audience on social media; when it’s appropriate (don’t spam), share links to your content to give your audience value. —Todd GiannattasioTresnic Media

RELATED: 5 Small Business Content Marketing Ideas: How to Create Clickable Content

The post 6 Ways to Build Your Brand Using Content Marketing appeared first on

The post 6 Ways to Build Your Brand Using Content Marketing appeared first on Click for more information about FounderSociety.

Real Estate Concierge Services Taking Off In Housing Industry

The rise of the experience-based economy has increased the popularity of services that handle the particulars and make it easier for the customer to enjoy their experience while finding exactly what they are looking for. Travel agencies, clothing curators, and subscription services are just a few examples of how consumers are willing to go with a brand that takes the stress out of the process.

The housing industry is catching on to the concierge trend, especially rental markets that thrive on discerning customers looking for an ideal experience. Researcher Bob Cain found that middle-income individuals represent the largest renter demographic at 37 percent of the total market. These are renters who could afford a home but choose to rent instead. For them, experience and quality of life are everything.

Additionally, the rental market is experiencing steady growth with the Rental Protection Agency reporting an average growth rate of over 2,600 renters per day. These newcomers to the rental market will be looking for better listings and expecting services that help customize their search to find the right home for them.

Concierge services and tech startups aren’t just improving the experience of consumers, they are also upgrading the technological underpinnings of the industry. Ashrit Kamireddi, CEO and founder of VeryApt, a concierge service for apartment hunters, explains, “We use natural language processing to take all of our review content and feed it into the recommendations; we also use millions of data points to optimize people’s commutes and simply convey that information on each apartment listing.” The benefits of data-driven platforms for the industry are more unbiased actors who can help consumers and businesses find each other based on real matching criteria.

What’s Behind the Surge in Real Estate Concierge Growth?

There are a few key trends driving both experiential and technological upgrades in the housing industry, most of which can be attributed to changing expectations from consumers, and the industry’s need to adapt quickly.

Millennial Renters Expect Experiences:

As Millennials advance in their careers, they are becoming the most influential consumer group. Millennials with expendable incomes are looking for luxury apartments in large cities that are surrounded by dining and entertainment options that match their experience and travel-centric lifestyles. They are also more concerned with layout, and quality of life more than they are space. Kamireddi shared, “People are voting with their wallets and smaller units provide greater mobility, better rents, and common amenities.” He adds, “By a longshot, the most called out items in reviews according to our Natural Language Processing system are location, value, and access to transit. Shortly after is the quality of staff and management.”

Millennials are also slower to buy homes than previous generations, with most waiting at least 1-2 years longer before making a first home purchase. That kind of delay will continue to grow the rental market, especially in city centers.

Buildings Turn to Services for Help:

There is a massive amount of administrative work that goes into finding the right renters, and in some cases, large marketing budgets eat away at a building’s profits. Not to mention the onslaught of applications that come from listing sites that do little to curate the quality of applicants.

To help offload some of this administrative overhead, apartment buildings are contracting with concierge services to help increase reach and simplify the selection process. Kamireddi shared, “By providing properties with real data, they can better target their capital investments towards improving tenant retention” Since these tech services often help reduce overhead the shift in thinking involves minimal risk for property managers.

Empty Nesters Want to Shorten Search:

Empty Nesters are opting for smaller footprint homes and apartments more than ever. As baby boomers move out of the house and into apartments, they are going to be looking for solutions that are easy to use and take the hassle out of scrolling through many listings online.

Recent data bears this out, with Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist at MBA sharing, “Rates are still too high to attract much interest from homeowners looking to refinance, and purchase activity was relatively weak.” He was commenting on how activity week to week has been decreasing by several percentage points. For former homeowners, or baby boomers interested in renting, the idea of searching for an apartment might seem daunting, especially if it’s in a new city. That’s why concierge services are courting these influential consumer groups, not just millennials.

Property managers should consider what functions concierge services may be able to take over to save both time and money for the building. Renters will continue to get more discerning as the data available to them becomes better. Additionally reaching ideal renters will become more difficult for properties that aren’t listed where those ideal renters are searching.

Concierge Bell Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Stop Wasting Time! Three Reasons Your Rental Business Should Consider a Concierge Service" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Chinese Consumers Want Most

With a middle class of 300 million that’s growing annually, there certainly are plenty of opportunities for selling products to Chinese consumers. But some products are more in demand than others.

To help small businesses attempting to enter that market determine which is which, online seller Alibaba held its Gateway ‘17 conference in Detroit this week. There, experts and business owners discussed the growing opportunities for businesses to sell a variety products to Chinese consumers — especially via Alibaba operated online marketplace Tmall.

What Chinese Consumers Want Most

Small Business Trends attended the Gateway’17 event at Cobo Center June 20 and 21 to learn more. Here are 20 types of products that are especially popular in China right now.


Fashion is one of the biggest product categories for Chinese consumers looking to buy imported products, according to Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group. Chinese consumers, especially young people, like the styles they can get from U.S. brands, along with the quality of garments.


For similar reasons, shoes are also popular import products in China. Stadium Goods is one business that has realized success by selling shoes there. The company has found that some of its collectable sneakers that can’t be found in Chinese stores are especially popular.


Jewelry is another popular category due to the quality and style of import goods. is a large U.S. brand that has been able to increase its profits dramatically by selling on Tmall in China.


According to Chande, beauty is another one of the most popular category for Chinese shoppers, especially those using Tmall. And makeup is a major product within that niche.


Skincare products like moisturizer and sunscreen are also popular with Chinese consumers. Especially if you offer products made with natural ingredients, you could have a good chance of appealing to health conscious Chinese consumers.

Beauty Accessories

Also in the beauty niche, accessories like makeup brushes are popular in China. Real Techniques is one U.S. brand that has found a lot of success by selling its products on Tmall in China.


Chinese consumers are also becoming increasingly health conscious, according to Chande. So health products like vitamins and supplements are getting more and more popular on platforms like Tmall.

Fresh Produce

If you have the resources to ship to China quickly, you can also appeal to Chinese customers by selling fresh produce like fruits and vegetables.


There’s also a growing demand for U.S. seafood in China, both because of the increasing health concerns over local Chinese seafood and because the U.S. has access to some types of seafood that can’t be found in China.

Packaged Healthy Foods

But you can also appeal to Chinese consumers with health foods that are a bit easier to ship. Think packaged food items that include healthy ingredients like dried fruit and whole grains.

Trendy Snacks

Chinese consumers, especially young people, are also interested in food trends. (Think foods like kale chips and superfoods.) Sometimes Chinese consumers can’t get these trendy food items from local Chinese sellers.


Juice is also a popular product among health conscious consumers in China. And some types of fruit juice, like cranberry juice, have just recently been introduced into the Chinese market. Ocean Spray is one brand that has ushered in that growing trend in China.


In addition, wineries and small wine brands can appeal to Chinese consumers as import brands. Especially for brands that operate in desirable regions like Napa Valley, selling in China can lead to plenty of growth opportunities.

Baby Food

“Mom and baby” is another one of the most popular product categories among Chinese shoppers, according to Chande. And baby food is a huge product within that niche. Gerber, for example, has found a lot of success by expanding its offerings into the Chinese market and introducing healthy food for the growing number of babies in China.

Breastfeeding Products

Moms also want to make sure they have the best possible products when it comes to taking care of their new babies. So companies that provide breastfeeding accessories and similar products can appeal to new parents looking to get the very best products for their growing families.

Maternity Wear

Though clothing of any type is popular in China, maternity clothing can be especially popular due to the growing number of families in China.

Baby Accessories

In addition, other baby accessories like bottles, rattles and play sets can also appeal to those family oriented consumers who are willing to pay a premium to get the best possible products for their kids.

Natural Cleaning Products

Chinese consumers also regularly purchase everyday products like cleaning goods online. So U.S. businesses could potentially sell cleaning products, especially those with natural ingredients to appeal to families and health conscious consumers.

Sporting Goods

Sporting goods and athletic gear are also popular. This category can range from outdoor gear to equipment for specific sports or workout activities.


And also, technology is a huge market in China. Consumers can obviously get tons of different gadgets from all kinds of sources. But if your company has a unique offering that isn’t everywhere in China already, it could certainly appeal to that customer base.

Shopper Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "20 Products Most In Demand with Chinese Customers – #Gateway17" was first published on Small Business Trends


When you think of Shopify, what initially comes to mind? Whether it’s dropshipping t-shirt businesses or maker shops, you’re likely thinking about physical products—small businesses creating and curating goods to sell in store or ship around the world.

But when we say “product”, we’re talking about more than just tangible things.

Many merchants are using Shopify in creative ways to sell, well, pretty much anything and everything else. Experiences, courses, rentals, and digital downloads are just a few business ideas beyond physical products.

If you’re just starting out on your journey to entrepreneurship, and still haven’t decided on an product to sell online, consider the intangible, too.

Services or other non-products may be your core business, or an add-on to an existing product based business. Products and non-products can be sold side by side in the same Shopify store.

For example: sell adventure tours to tourists online and then target them with an email campaign later to incite them to buy t-shirts or other merchandise to remember the experience.

What to sell on Shopify (other than products)

We looked at 14 Shopify stores selling everything from consultations to charitable donations to dress rentals to help inspire your own entrepreneurial genius.

For each type of business, we’ve suggested apps and tools to help you make the most of your Shopify experience, and make the checkout process as seamless as possible for your customers.

1. Services (Appointments)

Sin Chew Optical sells eyewear on its online store and in a physical location, but customers can also book in-person eye examinations via its website. This is a great option for primarily service based businesses like spas and salons that also offer physical products online.

"I provide eye test appointment booking online. If someone books an eye test we will just free up the slot to be sure we have an optometrist available during that time." – Adriel Wen, Sin Chew Optical

Suggested app: Appointment Booking adds a dynamic calendar to your store, allowing customers to book preferred time slots with real-time availability. The app syncs with Google Calendar and automatically sends confirmation emails to you and the customer.

2. Memberships

Organizations like the California Native Plant Society can sell memberships to customers on Shopify using a simple app. Memberships work much like subscription box businesses, relying on a recurring payment setup.

Suggested app: Recurring Memberships allows merchants to sell one-time or recurring memberships online, and can be used for physical businesses (say, a yoga studio) or to manage member-only access to content on a website.

3. Consultations

Sell your time. Whether you’re an interior designer or life coach, an ecommerce site can help you book and sell online or in-person consultations. Healthy Habits Living sells nutritional supplements via its online store, and owner Carly Neubert offers personalized nutritional assessments also for purchase on the site.

Suggested apps and tools: an app like Sufio helps manage invoicing for service based businesses. Also try Shopify’s Invoice Generator tool.

4. Digital Downloads

If I Made creates original creative course content with industry professionals and delivers the programming digitally to students.

“Wedding Styling 101 was an in-person workshop curriculum. We then took that content and brought it all online to make it more portable and accessible. Our courses are a combination of worksheets, PDFs, and video.” – Emily Newman, If I Made

Digital downloads can also refer to music files, fonts, or other design elements. Laura Thomas of Pretty Presets uses Shopify to sell Lightroom presets to photographers.

Suggested apps: apps like Sky Pilot and can instantly deliver files to customers after purchase, or send a link to where the files can be downloaded. Also try apps like Easy Video to add video previews or free content to product pages.

5. Event Support

The Mobile Locker Co. rents and delivers mobile banks of lockers for marathons and outdoor events. Event organizers arrange lockers with the company, and The Mobile Locker Co. uses ecommerce functionality to let runners book individual lockers (listed by event) through the site.

“Online, we offer runners the opportunity to rent their locker in advance. This secures their locker and, for certain events, saves them 20% off the onsite pricing.” – Owner, The Mobile Locker Co.

Stretch Tents provides tents and set-up for events, and due to the custom nature of the service, relies on a chat app to help understand the customers' needs.

Suggested apps: booking services for specific events requires extra information to be collected from customers, and a real-time booking app to secure event dates. Try installing Powr Form Builder or a chat app like Tidio, and BookThatApp

6. Experiences

Experience-based businesses can range from travel and adventure to wine tastings and hands-on workshops. Aspen Expeditions Worldwide sells rock climbing adventures, international guided trips, and camping expeditions through its ecommerce store. Product pages for each adventure requires a ton of copy—Aspen Expeditions organizes the information by adding tabs to the product description.

Suggested app: travel or experience based businesses may need to collect additional customer information like medical concerns and emergency contacts. Use Powr Form Builder to create more robust and customizable forms.

7. Fitness Classes and Lessons

Wakes Surf and School not only sells and rents surf and wakeboard gear, they also teach you how to use them. Customers can purchase, rent, and book lessons all through the online store. Gyms and yoga studios can also sell class passes or memberships online—use customer accounts to manage member information.

Suggested app: customers can book their own lessons and class passes using the Appointment Booking app at the time of purchase. Recurring Memberships is a great options for gyms and fitness studios, too.

8. Rentals

Rental businesses are technically service-based, even though a physical product is involved. Mannequin Madness sells retail props to other shops via its online store, but also rents them temporarily. While their rental catalog is online, they use a contact form to assess customer needs before processing the rental.

"I am an accidental entrepreneur. I saw a mannequin on Craigslist and was going to buy it for an art project. When I discovered that the person selling the mannequin operated the only mannequin rental company in town and was leaving the state, I bought his entire inventory of 50 mannequins." – Owner, Mannequin Madness

Dress rental business, Fitzroy, however, asks customers to select a rental period from the product page using a date selector variant, and check out right on the site. They rely on a simple app and a clear FAQ page to make the rental process smooth for customers, and relatively hands-off for their staff.

Suggested apps: try Powr Form Builder for manual rental requests and BookThatApp to add a calendar to product pages.

9. Installations (and Quotes) sells and installs solar energy solutions for homeowners. Due to the custom nature of the product and installation, customers can request quotes and expert advice via forms throughout the site. 

Suggested app: install Quick Quote to gather customer quote requests from your store, and use the app to track the quote status and chat with customers. Quick Quote also works for any business doing larger custom projects—graphic designers, furniture makers, or contractors, for example.

10. Donations

Many charities use Shopify as the merchandise arm of the operation, selling t-shirts and other goods with profits supporting the cause. Charities and non-profits like MADI also use an ecommerce site to “sell” one-time and recurring donations.

Suggested apps: use ReCharge to accept recurring donations, and Tax Receipts to send automated and customizable charitable donation receipts to customers. Also try , an app to help non-charity stores offer a charity donation option at check-out.

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Get the free video series 11. Event Tickets

Shopify store Undertow works with select artists to sell tickets online for music events throughout the US. They use a paperless delivery method, sending downloadable PDF tickets to customers.

Suggested apps and tools: try Events Calendar (an app that syncs with Shopify and Google Calendar) to keep customers and fans in the know about upcoming events. Digital delivery apps like Sky Pilot or SendOwl work great for ticketing. Also try our free QR Code Generator.

12. Digital Gift Cards

The simplest of non-tangible goods to add to any website is gift cards. From Shopify, you can enable gift cards for your store (if you're on the Shopify plan or higher)—they work for both product and service-based businesses, if redeemed online.

Suggested tool: customize your gift card design using our free template.

If you’re not shipping physical products from your Shopify store, you may need to disable shipping settings and configure email templates to suit your business. More complex businesses may also consider hiring a Shopify Expert to customize the functionality of the store.

Do you sell services or other non-products on Shopify? In the comments below, tell us about your business and your favorite apps.

[Author: Dayna Winter]

Starting today, all Shopify store owners can put me to work—free!

Since joining Shopify in 2016, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many inspiring entrepreneurs. Our combined efforts have resulted in reaching millions of new customers, driving sales, and creating a better livelihood for entrepreneurs across the globe.

That’s why it makes sense to level the playing field and have me work at no cost.

Making commerce better for everyone is our mission here at Shopify. With this same spirit in mind, I want to give you the opportunity to spend your time strategically by removing as much from your plate as I can—things like managing and running Instagram ads, setting up Facebook retargeting pixels, and sending thank you emails to your customers.

“All these people are trying to do this by themselves. What if we could build them that one person to do those 20 things? What does it take for the playing field to be levelled? It takes support, it takes a team!”

Michael Perry, Creator of Kit

Listen to Michael Perry share his story about creating me.

How I’ve been driving traffic for store owners

As a certified Facebook Marketing Partner I run Facebook dynamic product ads and Instagram ads for Shopify store owners. Reach out to me via Messenger, SMS, or Telegram, and I’ll create, and manage profitable ad campaigns in seconds!

I’ve delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales to Shopify store owners. The store owner of Library Store shared that they were “... struggling with running Facebook ads and retargeting the right audience,” and now, after hiring me, “... that has changed and we have seen a great return on investment especially for our retargeting ads.”

How does this change impact store owners I work for today?

If you’re already working with me, this exciting change gives you upwards of $300 in annual savings that you can now put towards the cost of running ads on Facebook and Instagram.

No action is required on your part—we’ll just continue to work together as usual, and you’ll no longer be billed monthly.

If you haven’t hired me yet, let’s get started!

I love helping small business owners succeed, and I get a thrill out of working with each and every entrepreneur I meet. With that said, to hire me to help you market your business you’ll first need to have a Shopify online store, and be on at least the $29 monthly plan.

If you’re all set, and have removed your storefront password, visit the Shopify App Store to add me.

Hire Me

Remember: any work you can shift from your plate to mine allows you more time to focus on growing and scaling your business. In other words, more time to tackle the important stuff that no one else can do as well as you.

Let’s get to work!

[Author: Kit  ]

what is an entrepreneurMy dad’s an entrepreneur.

In 1990, he opened his own auto shop.

He took a risk, went through the motions of uncertainty and stress, worked a second job to support both his family and his business, grew his customer base, hired other mechanics, sold services (auto repair) as well as products (auto parts), and was ultimately accountable for his own success.

Ask him what he does for a living, however, and he won’t tell you he’s an entrepreneur . He’ll say he "fixes cars".

Ask him about being his own boss and he’ll say, “When you have your own business, you’re not the boss. You’re an employee.”

But in my eyes he is most definitely an entrepreneur, at least according to the definition you get from  a quick Google search :

An entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

Like my dad, many small business owners don’t embrace their identity as “entrepreneurs”. On the other hand, you probably know someone who wears the title with pride.

I’ve heard some people exclude those who own side businesses as “real entrepreneurs”. I’ve also heard others talk broadly about entrepreneurs as anyone who starts a new business in any capacity. And let’s not forget the “entrepreneurial tendencies” people can have without owning a business, that many companies today look for in the people they hire.

But is an independent freelancer an entrepreneur? What about a full-time Uber driver? Someone who runs a stall at a fish market? Where do we draw the line, if there is one to draw?

This wide range of interpretations, coupled with all the new ways for people to make money on their own terms, begs the question: What exactly  is an “entrepreneur” today?

What is an “Entrepreneur” Really?

what is an entrepreneur

According to Census Bureau data, from 1978 to 2012 there’s been a more than 44% decrease in new firms  being created as a share of total businesses in the United States—the home of the American Dream—a trend that has been interpreted as the decline of entrepreneurship.

Despite that, our overall interest in the "entrepreneur” is still alive and healthy around the world, according to Google Trends.


In fact, a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report in 2015 revealed that 66% of adults surveyed worldwide see entrepreneurship as a good career choice—over half who are working-age feel they have the ability to start a business.

This is likely due to our evolving interpretation of what an entrepreneur is, one that’s born from new variations and forms of “entrepreneurship”, from the sidepreneur to the infopreneur —emphasizing, above all, the self-starter attitude toward creating value that in turn creates revenue.

So I talked to over 25 “entrepreneurs” from all walks of life—from solopreneurs to tech founders to store owners to creators—to get a range of perspectives on what exactly an entrepreneur is.

Here are some of the answers I got:

“An entrepreneur is someone who prefers a life of boundless uncertainty to that of predictability and chooses to bet on themselves before anyone else.”

Drew Downs, Co-founder of Nuvango

“An entrepreneur is someone who has made a conscious decision to choose freedom. This freedom doesn't come easy because being an entrepreneur isn't easy, but it will change your life in every way. Many of us spend years of our lives building someone else's dream and following someone else's rules. As entrepreneurs, we get to choose to work on the things that light us up, that motivate us, and that make a big impact for those around us. As entrepreneurs, we get to spend time with our family when we choose to, go on vacation when we choose to and surround ourselves with the people we choose to.”

— John Lee Dumas, Host of Entrepreneur on Fire

“An entrepreneur is a person who seeks to make a change - either to an industry, or the world. They're willing to take on financial risk, always choosing growth over profit, and are optimistic to a fault. There's never been a lower barrier to entry - you don't need a Computer Science degree to launch a web-based product or service. So to be a successful entrepreneur today boils down almost entirely to execution and perseverance.“

— Yoav Schwartz
, Co-founder of Uberflip

“An entrepreneur takes on the risk and seeks to fill a need on her own terms. An entrepreneur doesn't just ‘organize’ a business in my mind, but fuels it, directs it, and creates it. I hesitated to call myself an entrepreneur for a long time because I thought you had to have a Harvard MBA. I was so wrong. Entrepreneurs are scrappy and disruptive, creative and unruly, strategic and unstoppable. Sometimes they make lousy students and difficult employees.”

—Terri Trespicio,
Branding & Content Strategist, Writer, Professional Speaker

“An entrepreneur is someone that can sustainably serve an audience because they have a profitable business model.”

—Felix Thea
, Owner of

Aside from the recurring themes of risk, value creation, and rebellion, the answers I got varied from person to person, from business to business.

The definition of entrepreneurship seems to have evolved, and it’s likely the result of two things:

  1. Thanks to technology, the barriers to entry have never been lower to start as an entrepreneur.
  2. There are more paths now to starting a business than ever before.
How Technology Has Changed Entrepreneurship

A survey of readers in 2015  revealed that the biggest barriers would-be entrepreneurs perceive are:

  • “I don’t think I can raise enough money.” (48%)
  • “I don’t have an idea.” (40%)
  • “I’m discouraged by the high failure rate of businesses.” (22%)
  • “I don’t have the right skills.” (21%)
  • “I worry about balancing business and family life.” (18%)
  • “I’m worried about taxes and regulations.” (17%)
  • “The competitive barriers are too high.” (13%)
  • “I don’t think I could hire people with the skills I need.” (7%)

But a lot of these are what I’d call “legacy fears” surrounding entrepreneurship—outdated misgivings that have yet to catch up with the technology and platforms that enable us to start things and put plans into motion in ways that weren’t possible before.

A Timeline of Tech Enabling Entrepreneurship

In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the emergence of new software, tools and platforms addressing the fears and pain points associated with starting and running a business.  And that’s excluding all the other opportunities afforded by social networks and search engines.

timeline technology for entrepreneur


How technology has enabled entrepreneurs:

  • Quickbooks made accounting more accessible for small businesses.
  • Alibaba made finding a supplier easier for products you could sell.
  • MailChimp made email marketing easier and more affordable.
  • Shopify made it easier to start and run a business selling anything online without knowing how to code.
  • Dropbox enabled file sharing for better, more secure collaboration.
  • Kickstarter made crowdfunding your ideas a mainstream concept, reducing the financial barrier for execution.
  • Buffer streamlined the way you schedule social media content across multiple profiles.
  • Fiverr offered a marketplace for finding affordable talent and human resources.
  • Zapier made integrating technology possible without a developer in order to automate workflows.
  • Canva made it possible for anyone to design the visual assets they need for a variety of circumstances.
  • Kit built a “virtual employee” to take on some of the burden of running a business.

These companies—these entrepreneurs enabling entrepreneurship, of which I’ve only highlighted a handful—have created a world where a business no longer needs to be tied to a particular building, where many of them start and are run from home, on a laptop, in a coffee shop, through a mobile phone, with “employees” around the world.

How People Become Entrepreneurs Today

Considering that “part-time entrepreneurship” is now more common than it once was, it’s no longer necessary for you to quit your job to start building something on the side.

Many Shopify store owners run their businesses part-time, during evenings or on the weekend, eventually going full-time if they choose to. Some have a physical location for their store and others operate entirely online. 

Businesses can now exist in a variety of forms that just weren’t possible before. So naturally, people are starting them for a variety of reasons.  

You can...

Build a business around selling products and proving value.

Many entrepreneurs identify an opportunity and then capitalize on it. If there’s demand, they become the one with the supply. Being passionate about the product helps but it’s by no means a prerequisite.

All you need is to be passionate about business, competition, and creating systems that create value, either as a side business or something that replaces your 9 to 5.

Example: Veestro

Build a business around information and empowerment.

The “infopreneur” is typically a teacher who sells information via courses, templates and other resources usually geared towards educating and empowering their audience.

Example: Copyblogger 

Build an audience and then build a business around it.

Once, the only way for an artist to survive was to have their work sponsored by a wealthy patron.

Today, creators—writers, vloggers, musicians—build audiences around their talents and cleverly create businesses around them with merchandise, book sales etc. The “patron” is now their audience.

We don’t often look at them that way, but books are physical products and music downloads can be a digital product. If you’re selling these, you’re running a business.

Example: Wait But Why

Build a business around your craft.

The maker applies a specific craft they’ve honed in order to create physical products. Usually a hobby or a past time, they’ve learned how to unearth niche audiences with an interest in owning what they create—whether necklaces, hand-crafted furniture, or scented candles.

This often starts out as a hobby before you find your first customers and decide to become an entrepreneur.

Example: JM&Sons

Build a business around providing services.

This group includes agencies, consultants, freelancers and people with skills or expertise that others need. They might start off alone, only able to make money when they work, but they can develop into more if they want.     

Example: Shopify Partners

Build a business around a better way of doing things.

There’s always room for improvement. There are always needs and pain points that have yet to be satisfied.

This is the story behind many tech company founders trying to realize their vision of a better way.

It can also be built around a product or service that you want that simply doesn't exist. Not yet anyway.

Example: Uber 

Build a business around social responsibility.

Some entrepreneurs use business as a means of creating a sustainable living that improves the quality of lives through social enterprise. Outside of profit, the value they seek to create is for those in need.

Example: LSTN

These are only some of the  intrinsic motivations that lead people down the path of entrepreneurship. It might even be some combination of reasons that inspires you to start a business.

The reasons might be unique to each person, but there are two qualities all entrepreneurs share.

Two Things All Entrepreneurs Have In Common

The word "entrepreneur" comes from the French word, entreprendre : to undertake. And despite how e ntrepreneurship has changed over the years, that part is still very much in tact.

However you or anyone else chooses to define what it means to be an entrepreneur, it almost goes without saying that an entrepreneur can’t become one if he or she has to wait for that validation.

Because there are at least two things every entrepreneur has in common for sure:

  1. They have ambition.
  2. They start.

Running your own business? Share your interpretation of what it means to be an entrepreneur in the comments below!

Ready to build a business of your own? Start your 14-day free trial of Shopify—no credit card required!

[Author: Braveen Kumar]

On the Atlantic coast of Canada, sea kelp, a natural vitamin-packed wonder, became the inspiration and central ingredient for a personal care brand. It wasn’t just that sea kelp had a cornucopia of benefits in skincare, or that the plant was abundant in the area—the founders of Nova Scotia Fisherman were simply fiercely proud of their heritage.

Every decision in the business, from ingredients (like locally-sourced kelp) to manufacturing to their chosen suppliers and partners, are deliberately made to support the local economy.

The approach isn’t always the most economical, of course. Shipping in and out of a rural town can be expensive, and the company could cut costs by outsourcing the manufacturing overseas. But the decisions bring authenticity to the brand, strengthening its story, and ultimately contributing to its success.

Today, Nova Scotia Fisherman is a 5-year-old thriving business, shipping its “extreme skincare” line to retailers in eight countries, and direct to customers through two ecommerce stores.

They have never, though, compromised on their made-in-Canada values.

Oh, Canada?

Shopify is a Canadian company. There, we said it.

While it’s something for which we are immensely proud, it’s not a fact that may be entirely obvious to anyone passing through our website or even using our platform.

It’s part of our story, but you won’t catch us doing any obnoxious flag waving. We’re humble Canadians, what can we say? You see, the majority of our customers are American businesses, and we power stores in almost every other country in the world.

We’re a global company, with roots in Canada.

This year, though, as Canada pipes icing onto the massive birthday cake that will hold 150 candles, we decided that it’s time to speak up. Ahem, sorry, we’re Canadian.

As part of the Canada 150 festivities, our team is making the 7,821 km (4,860 mi.) trek across the country to visit some of our incredible Canadian merchants. We’re bringing Shop Class—a learning and community building event—to eight cities from Vancouver to Halifax.

On this blog, we’ve featured many Canadian merchants before—from a magazine publisher in Calgary to a general store in rural Ontario—but this year, we’re celebrating Canadian entrepreneurship as a whole.

This year, we’re celebrating Canadian entrepreneurship as a whole.

Our heritage is woven with entrepreneurship, after all. It was born with Indigenous craftsmanship and early fur traders, grown on the backs of immigrant family businesses, and propelled today by over 27K Shopify merchants selling online, in store, and at pop-ups and markets across the country.

One of those merchants is Nova Scotia Fisherman.

I spoke to Tassi Sewell, wearer of many hats, about the company’s beginnings and the rewards and challenges of growing a business in a small rural community.

Pioneers in Natural Body Care

Let’s rewind a little. Though Nova Scotia Fisherman launched in 2012, riding a healthy trend in natural skincare and cosmetics, its origin story actually starts decades earlier.

Say you’re looking for a new plant-based body lotion in 2017. What do you do? You’d walk a few blocks to your local Whole Foods, of course, and choose from dozens of brands across multiple aisles—everything from naturally inspired to obsessively organic in every scent imaginable.

Now, say it the early 1980s. Whole Foods was in its infancy, not yet breaking out of its native Austin, TX. Natural and organic personal care brands were scarce, and the demand was low.

So, 30 years ago, when Bob Macleod and Steve Byckiewicz had the idea for Kiss My Face, a body care line with natural ingredients, they had no idea how the products would be received. But they took a risk.

Today, Kiss My Face is a leader in the space, with products in retailers across 19 countries including hefty real estate in Whole Foods (which, by the way, did make it out of Austin, now operating 465 stores in North America and the UK).

Two guys, a VW van full of bars of soap, one fated trip to NYC later, and a brand was born.

Now, the natural personal care market is thriving, and forecasted to reach $46 billion by 2018.

With their surprising early success with Kiss My Face, the founders decided it was time for a new challenge. They sold the business, though they still remain the faces and hearts of the brand.

Nova Scotia Fisherman

Bob Macleod hails from New Brunswick, a neighboring east coast province. With his follow-up brand, he wanted to invest back in his homeland, the Canadian maritimes, Tassi explains.

“We're in a pretty small town here, so there are a lot of people that need some good quality work. It continues to be really one of our main focuses—continuing to grow and continuing to provide more jobs here.”

It continues to be really one of our main focuses—continuing to grow and continuing to provide more jobs here.

He called up family friend and candle manufacturer, Perley Beairsto.

Bob, Steve, and Perley began to discuss sea kelp, and the possibility of using the natural resource to inspire a new brand, manufactured locally. Under the eye of the three industry veterans and the newly recruited Les Falconer, Nova Scotia Fisherman leaped from idea to reality very quickly.

“Bob and Steve both have such an incredible knowledge of natural products and different ingredients, and they discovered sea kelp, which is a product that’s plentiful here in Nova Scotia—our coasts are full of it. It's some of the most pristine and clean kelp in the world, because our pollution levels are so low here. They really wanted to highlight that awesome ingredient.”

The line, based in locally sourced ingredients like sea kelp, sea buckthorn, and bayberry, were designed to treat and soothe overworked hands, inspired by the local fishing industry. The products caught on with gardeners and those with skin conditions. But the product’s clean ingredients, light, neutral scents, and soothing properties had even wider appeal.

Following the winning distribution strategy of Kiss My Face, they focused on grocery.

"They were really pioneers. There weren't a whole lot of natural body care products before they came on the scene. A big factor for them was to be affordable, so that people wouldn't scare away from going natural."

They were really pioneers. There weren't a whole lot of natural body care products before they came on the scene.

With natural products generally carrying a higher price tag and catering to niche consumers, they focused on a mass market approach, making the prices and products accessible.

“The bulk of our business is wholesale—we're in Sobey’s, Loblaws, Whole Foods, and a lot of independent grocers. We wanted our products to be available in those types of retailers because it’s a natural product that's also affordable. We really don't think that choosing natural products should be an expensive option.”

We really don't think that choosing natural products should be an expensive option.

The company now wholesales to eight countries, taking the burden off of the high shipping costs that would be associated with selling individual bars of soap directly to international customers from Canada. They recently expanded into Dubai, and found an excellent market in New Zealand, a country with strong fishing communities.

But the ecommerce site services their loyal North American followers, and generates many holiday sales.

The website serves another purpose, too: as a powerful storyteller. Nova Scotia Fisherman’s story—maritime heritage and local pride—is the active ingredient in the brand’s success.

“There are so many great things happening that we want to share, but we can't put everything on every single bottle, and we can't get the message out there with one photo.”

Not only are the products made and ingredients sourced in Atlantic Canada, but wherever possible, the company leans on other local small businesses.

They work with a graphic designer and printer in town to produce labels, and partner with a local organization that provides employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

“Plank Industries employs people from our local rehabilitation center, people with a variety of different cognitive and mental disabilities, and they provide them with a safe work environment. It’s a group-based setting for them to learn some new skills and develop their experience at work. They do some labeling for us, they hand-label some of our soaps, or they also make our boat displays, which we sell to wholesalers. The most important thing is to continue to help our local economy grow—if we grow, they grow too.

The most important thing is to continue to help our local economy grow—if we grow, they grow too.

These are the stories that bring strength to the brand.

The company also gives back to Canada and the greater good. A portion of the profits of every product sold support the Nature Conservancy of Canada, an organization that buys land in Canada to protect its natural resources and prevent development.

"The Nature Conservancy purchases a lot of their land in the southern part of Canada, so the most heavily populated parts. It's not just the random spots like in the north, it's right in our backyard. They protect the land long term from overdevelopment, so that it will be preserved and properly maintained, and so that ecosystems can thrive. They're providing a lot of jobs for biologists to study the landscape and see what's working, too, and if there's any help that they can give to make sure that the land is safe and healthy.”

Small business success in the community of New Minas has a ripple effect, impacting other business, creating jobs, and inspiring more entrepreneurship.

"As a small business here, we can support other small businesses in our community. When they see a new small business start, it's always exciting for them because it means potential for them to grow too. We really do support each other here."

Small but Mighty

Back at HQ, the team is lean but providing a substantial 16 jobs in the small community.

“It's a small company, there's really only about four of us here in house in the office. In our manufacturing plant, we have about 12 people who make the products as well. Our roles blend often, and we do a little bit of everything, and it's a lot of teamwork.”

Tassi’s own role involves social, content, sales, and running the ecommerce store.

They may be small, but they’re mighty: almost 12,000 tins of the company’s flagship product, Rescue Balm, are produced and sold globally each year. An aggressive summer roll out of new products is in the works, too, starting with the latest line of beard balms released this May.

Nova Scotia Fisherman proves that scaling a small business doesn’t mean sacrificing the core values upon which your brand was built.

“It does end up being a really big selling point, that it's a Canadian-made product. We can't change that at this point—that's what people know us as, and we definitely want to stay true to that and be honest with those decisions.”

[Author: Dayna Winter]

Everyone experiences varying degrees of stress throughout their lives, whether it’s from your job, the demands of running and growing a business, or a personal life that sometimes gets the better of you.

Unmanaged stress is a problem that tends to create more problems. It can impact your sleep, which hampers your performance, which can stress you out even more if you don't deal with it.

But "stress is bad" is a far too common and simplistic way of looking at this problem.

Our relationship with stress is actually a lot more complex. It's not just about how we overcome stress, but how we understand it, manage it, and harness it to lead more productive lives. 

What Causes Stress?

how to deal with stress

According to psychologist Walter Cannon, who coined the “fight or flight” concept, the primary function of stress is self-preservation.

In many cases, it’s a useful response to challenges or threats that gets us mentally and physically ready to tackle them. Stress affects your brain's chemistry in a way that can result in better attention, more cognitive activity, and even enhance your senses.

But in other circumstances, where it has no practical purpose to serve or sticks around longer than it needs to, it can be distracting and have negative consequences.

Stress is ultimately how we react to stressors: actual or perceived challenges to our ability to meet our actual or perceived needs.

Stressors can be external or internal:

  • External Stressors are changes in your environment, your work conditions, a completely unfamiliar and scary task you have to complete, or events that are usually outside of your control, like deadlines, a rainy day, or bills to pay.
  • Internal Stressors usually include thoughts or behaviors, like how well you eat and sleep, or feelings of anger and anxiety.

However, not all stress is the same. It can be broken down into two main types: acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute Stress Can Give You Superpowers

We’re all familiar with this kind of stress. It’s the kind of stress that wakes us up to the challenges or thrills of the present, which can be useful if we're facing a real threat with real consequences (like an important deadline).

If you're a serial procrastinator, for example, chances are you've gotten used to needing a decent amount of acute stress to get you in the zone. And that usually means a deadline staring you in the face. When you look at it that way, time constraints are just one "stressor" that results in a productive amount of stress.

However, episodic or frequent acute stress, especially common in chaotic lifestyles, can "over-arouse" your mind, which is distracting, counter-productive, and can result in burnout.

    Chronic Stress Negatively Impacts the Quality of Your Life

    This is what we usually call bad stress; it wears away at you over time. It's often the result of ongoing environmental conditions, such as a job you don't like, an unhealthy relationship, or financial strains.

    Chronic stress can impact the quality of your sleep and actually accelerate aging. We can't always help the sources of chronic stress in our lives. But stress, as mentioned before, is the way we react to stressors and that we can control at least to some extent.

    Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

    Not all stress is bad. 

    Some people thrive under stress and need the pressure to be just right before they dive into a task. Others meticulously plan ahead in order to avoid unnecessary pressure at all costs. Neither approach is right or wrong. It’s just important to be self-aware of how you personally react to stress and the nature of the tasks in front of you.

    The right amount of stress can help you be more productive in some cases, and without any stress at all, some tasks would be hard to focus on. But it goes without saying that too much stress can result in over-arousal that can lead to frustration, anxiety, depression, impaired performance, and other negative consequences.

    According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, work that requires endurance (routine and mundane tasks or ones that require a steep commitment of time to complete) can actually benefit from higher levels of acute stress. However, you can usually focus better on new or unfamiliar tasks without too much pressure.

    How to Deal With Stress: 6 Strategies to Try

    how to deal with stress

    Now that we understand a bit about what causes stress and how it impacts our lives, let's explore some strategies for more effectively managing it.

    It's no coincidence that the following, in some way, not only encourages us to change our perspectives, but also the way we spend our most finite resource: time.

    Prioritize What’s Important, Not What's Urgent

    Between work and life, it's often hard to avoid a full to-do list. And with so much going on, it can be hard to figure out where to start when every task seems to carry a similar weight.

    That's why having a reliable process for prioritizing your workload is a must for managing stress.

    It can be easy to prioritize work based on how easy it is or how much time it will take, but a popular method is to evaluate each of your tasks based on two criteria:

    1. Importance: Does it contribute to your ability to meet your own personal and professional goals?
    2. Urgency: Does it have to be completed soon and are there negative consequences if you choose to ignore it?

    “The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.”

    — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

    This is part of what's known as Eisenhower’s Principle or the Importance/Urgency Matrix: 

    how to deal with stress

    Draw this matrix out on a piece of paper next time you feel swamped and you might find it works a lot better than a traditional to-do list.

    This tool ultimately helps you surface value—will a task actually bring you closer to your goals?

    That's why you choose what’s both important and urgent first, and get that out of the way because of the weight of its value and the time-sensitive nature of it.

    Then you should consider what's important, but not urgent. These tasks can become urgent if left alone too long, so it's better to at least get a start on them before that time comes.

    After that, you can figure out what's not important but urgent. These are generally tasks like answering emails, attending meetings, and paying bills on time. They aren't the most valuable tasks on your to-do list, but they are time-sensitive. So when you're swamped, you shouldn't let these tasks burden your mind since not doing them ultimately won't impede you on your way to your goals.

    Finally, we have tasks that are neither important nor urgent. These are tasks you can often turn down at the moment without any real consequence, and should be the first ones you look at when you're thinking of what to put off or just say "no" to.

    Say “No” More Often

    Saying “yes” to unfamiliar opportunities can help you live a rich and interesting life. But saying “no" is how you live a productive one.

    If you tend to be a “yes person” whose default response to a favor or a request is to agree, then you probably find yourself regularly biting off more than you can chew and sometimes choking on it.

    There’s no point in always having a full plate that overflows. It can keep you from the things that actually matter. Using the decision-making matrix above, you can spot the unimportant task that you can safely decline in most cases.

    Saying no can be hard, especially if you're the type who feels obligated to help others out. But you can’t look out for others or do your best work unless you look out for yourself first.

    When you're overburdened and still saying yes to everything, apply TED speaker Derek Sivers simple heuristic:

    If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”.

    Change the Way You Look at Working Out

    The goal of working out doesn't have to be the pursuit of your peak physique. Instead, you can make it about your mind and well-being.

    Exercise releases endorphins that act as your body's natural pain killers. They can relieve tension and improve the quality of your sleep, thus reducing your stress levels. Even 5 minutes of cardio can help achieve this effect. Making exercise a regular part of your lifestyle can change the way you react to stress.

    Similarly, you can also work out your mind with mindfulness meditation. Studies have shown that meditation can help give you more control over how your mind reacts to internal stressors, such as the unproductive thoughts that provoke anxiety.

    Take Time Occasionally to Unplug From the World

    In a study on social media and stress conducted by the American Psychological Association, they found that "constant checkers" reported higher levels of stress compared to those who didn't check their social media feeds as frequently.

    Those who constantly checked their email, specifically, actually reported some of the highest levels of stress.

    As much as technology enables us to do more and has become something we can't live without, it's also what keeps us constantly connected to our work and everything that's going on in the world.

    Every once in a while, especially when you're over-exerting yourself, try to op out of social media for a bit:

    • Turn off your notifications on your phone and other devices to disconnect for a while.
    • Use the Stay Focused Chrome extension to block social media sites for a time.
    Automate and Outsource Where Possible

    Letting go of things—letting go of control—isn't about relinquishing power. It's about empowering yourself by taking your own time and attention back so you can invest it in what really matters.

    Spending 5 minutes to an hour to automate or outsource some of your current processes can take some of the stress off your plate permanently.

    Consider using services like IFTTT (for your personal life) and Zapier (for your work life), to cut down on the time and effort you spend on frequent, repeatable tasks.

    Here's an example of a Zapier workflow for collecting user-generated content that automatically downloads photos under a specific hashtag and saves them to Dropbox.

    And for outsourcing, try hiring a virtual assistant through Fancy Hands (for everyday tasks) or Zirtual (for business owners) to take on your administrative tasks.

    Make it a habit to regularly evaluate the processes you repeat to find ways to make them simpler to reduce the amount of effort they demand. It's a small investment of time with a huge, long-term reward.

    Start Something That's Personally Meaningful to You

    In French, we call it your "raison d’etre". In Japanese it's "ikigai". In English, it's your purpose. It's a concept that exists in many different cultures and languages. But whatever we call it, it's the idea of having something meaningful that you can always look forward to.

    Putting all your eggs in one basket can be dangerous for your well-being, whether it's a job or a relationship or anything. If something goes wrong there, it's hard to compartmentalize it without other things going on in your life.

    It might seem counter-intuitive to create more work for yourself to make your life less stressful, but again, stress isn't about how much work you have. It's about how you react to it.

    Whether it's painting, writing, running a blog, taking up a class, starting a side business, or attending a meetup, having something you can always control, especially when life gets out of control, can give you an ongoing outlet for any pent up stress.

    Creative work, in particular, can actually help you recover from the stress put on you by all your other work, reducing the potential and frequency of burning out.

    Understanding the Role of Stress

    Sometimes stress can be a burden that feels beyond our control. But oftentimes, it can be a powerful source of productive energy.

    Redefining our relationship with stress and being self-aware of it, when we're overburdened and when we're not feeling the right amount of pressure, can be one of the best "productivity hacks" out there. 

    Because stress isn't inherently bad. It's one of the reasons we're still around, after all. So change the way you think about stress to live a better, less busy life.

    Ready to start a business of your own? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify today

    [Author: Braveen Kumar]

    ultimate guide to tax deductions

    Not long after launching Loop Loft, Shopify seller Ryan Gruss saw his profits increase. But there was a catch.

    “We’d have a pretty profitable year, but then get nailed with taxes,” he says. “Looking back, we should have reinvested that money into the company.”

    Even though those tax hits hurt, they inspired Gruss to put some of profits towards expenses he could write off—in this case, marketing—and help turn Loop Loft into the steadily growing company it is today.

    Every ecommerce entrepreneur can learn from Gruss’s experience.

    If you run an online store, putting some of your profits towards tax-deductible business expenses can help your business grow and give you a break come tax season.

    Even day-to-day expenses—car trips to the post office, or the electricity bill for your home office—could be saving you money, so long as they’re recorded and reported.

    Read on to learn about the write-offs you may be missing, and some ideas on how to use them as a means to reinvest in your ecommerce business.


    Unless you’re running a dropshipping business, it’s your job to deliver the goods. Luckily, the IRS considers the cost of doing so “ordinary and necessary.”

    Postage, shipping meter subscriptions, delivery charges—they’re all tax deductible come tax time. Still, you’re better off paying less for shipping in the first place. Learn how to reduce shipping costs, and make sure you're getting the best deals on bubble wrap and postage fees.

    1. Packaging

    The cost of everything you use to get your product delivered on time and in one piece can be deducted on your tax return. This includes envelopes, boxes, paper, packing material, tape, labels, markers, and printer ink.

    Shipping… is not just Cost of Goods Sold. You need packing material, and there are postage costs as well. When I look at my credit card bill at the end of the month, it’s a huge expense.  

    Trisha Okubo, Maison Miru

    Workspace 2. Home Office

    If you run your store from home, you qualify for an ecommerce deduction. The size of this deduction will depend on how much of your home is devoted to doing business.

    These are the requirements you need to meet:

    • Your work area is only used for business activities. (If you occasionally do paperwork at the kitchen table, your kitchen does not qualify as a home office.)
    • Your work area must be the principal place of business for your ecommerce company. You should be ready to prove this with a consistent, printed schedule.
    • The majority of the time you spend in your home work area must be devoted to doing business. 

    Also, you should have no alternative workspace. That means no external office or coworking space from which you run your business.

    You have two options for calculating the home office deduction: the simplified method, and the regular method. Unsurprisingly, one is easier than the other.

    Using the simplified method, you deduct $5 per square foot of your home used for business, up to a maximum of 300 feet.

    To use the regular method, you calculate the percentage of your home’s square footage that you use for business, then apply that percentage to your home expenses—rent or mortgage interest, property taxes, electricity, heat, water, and anything else that makes it possible to occupy your home.

    For example, if you use 10% of your house’s square footage for business, you can deduct 10% of your mortgage interest on your tax return.

    To use the regular method, report expenses on Form 8829. To use the simplified method, fill out the appropriate worksheet on Schedule C of Form 1040.

    One of these methods may give you a better deduction than the other. It really depends on the nature of your business and your home office. Check with your CPA before you file, and read our guide to making the most of the home office deduction.

    Heads Up

    The IRS has a reputation for carefully scrutinizing home office expenses. Make sure you have the info you need to back up your claim. Take pictures of you work area and maintain a copy of your schedule for working there. Each financial year, keep them filed with your tax records and receipts.

    3. Utilities

    If your home qualifies as a workplace, household utilities—heat, water, and electricity—can be deducted on your tax return.

    You get this number as part of the regular method of calculating home office expenses. So, if 10% of your home’s square footage is used for doing business, you can deduct 10% of your heat, water, and electricity payments.

    4. Improvements and Repairs

    A necessary repair to your home office—for instance, fixing a broken window—can be reported as an expense on your tax return.

    An improvement to your home office can also be reported, but it must be depreciated over a period up to 27.5 years. Work done on your home office is classified as an improvement if it involves “betterment, adaptation, or restoration”—for instance, installing a larger window.

    Before paying for an improvement or repair, talk to your CPA to make sure you’re classifying it correctly.

    5. Coworking Space

    If you rent coworking space where you contribute to the cost of utilities and supplies, there’s a good chance those costs may be tax deductible. Check with your CPA.

    Banking and Insurance 6. Business Interest and Bank Fees

    If you have a business credit card or a small business loan, anything you pay in interest during the course of the financial year is tax deductible. The same applies to fees charged by your bank for maintaining or using your business checking account.

    7. Business Insurance

    Business, rental, liability, and workers’ compensation insurance are all tax deductible.

    Professional Services 8. Bookkeeper, Accountant, and Tax Consultant Fees

    Interesting fact: You can actually deduct the cost of meeting with a tax consultant who advises you on which expenses you can deduct.

    It’s known as a “professional services” deduction, and this deductible expense actually applies to a range of professionals who help you manage your business. When you hire a business lawyer, CPA, bookkeeper, online bookkeeping service, or tax consultant, their fees qualify as deductible business expenses.

    NoteConnect Bench & Shopify, and your Bench bookkeeping team will automatically import your store’s sales records to do your bookkeeping, without you having to lift a finger.

    I’ve had an accountant for my entire adult life, but just recently switched over to a local one who specializes in small business. He’s saved me more money this year than my other accountant ever did.

    Caroline Weaver, CW Pencils

    9. Legal Fees

    If you hire or retain an attorney to prepare contracts, file trademarks and copyrights, negotiate leases, defend your business in court, or perform other services for your business, you can write off their fees.

    Workers 10. Independent Contractors

    If you hire an independent contractor for any purpose related to your business—for instance, taking photos of products for your online store—the cost of their services is a tax deduction.

    Always be sure to collect 1099 forms from independent contractors before they start working for you, and file it properly (you’ll need to submit a copy to the contractor, and another copy to the IRS, before deadline).

    Heads Up

    The IRS is often on the lookout for employers who try to avoid paying employment taxes by classifying employees as contractors. Read our guide, Employee vs. Independent Contractor: How to Classify Your Employees, to make sure you’re playing by the rules.

    Because ecommerce businesses are representing themselves online, the visuals tend to be so important. You want to invest in the right people to help you create and realize those.

    Trisha Okubo, Maison Miru

    11. Employees

    If your ecommerce business hires employees, their wages and benefits are tax deductible. To learn more, check out our article How to Deduct Employee Perks, Benefits, Compensation

    Marketing 12. Advertising

    Help your business grow, and pay fewer taxes while you’re at it. Whether you advertise your business on Instagram or in your local newspaper, the cost of advertising is tax deductible.

    This includes both the price of placing the ad, and any fees you pay to have it written and designed. If you hire a designer, copywriter, or other marketing professional to produce ads for you, you deduct their wages as you would any 1099 worker.

    13. Marketing Tools and Services

    If you use tools like Klaviyo or AdEspresso to manage your email and Facebook campaigns, they count as “ordinary and necessary” marketing expenses. The cost of your subscriptions can be deducted.

    Our best deductible expense goes into paid marketing—towards lead generation, and filling the top of our funnel.

    Ryan Gruss, Loop Loft

    Website Fees 14. Shopify

    Shopify gives you all the tools you need to run an online store. As such, for any ecommerce business, Shopify fees definitely qualify as an “ordinary and necessary” business expense.

    15. Domain and Web Hosting

    You can’t run an ecommerce business without an online presence. Domain and web hosting are tax deductible. If you purchase web design templates or stock images to use on your site, you can also deduct their cost. The same applies if you pay to upgrade your store’s theme in Shopify.

    16. Services

    Beyond operating an online store, the services you use to engage with current or potential customers can be deducted.

    So, if you publish a newsletter, you can deduct the cost of MailChimp. If you schedule social media posts, you can deduct the cost of Hootsuite. Or, if you’re optimizing your site for search engines, you can deduct the cost of SEO tools such as SEMRush.

    Education 17. Classes

    If you take classes to upgrade your skills in a way that is relevant to your business, you can deduct their cost.

    The class qualifies for a deduction if you take it in order to obtain a certification—such as becoming a Certified Ecommerce Consultant.

    But even less specific forms of education—for instance, a photography class that helps you take better pictures of the products you sell—can be deducted. So long as the class directly improves your day-to-day business operations, it’s tax deductible. 

    Also, the cost of transportation to any business-related classes qualifies as a travel expense. Read our guide on How to Deduct Education, Classes, and Workshops to learn more about reporting this expense.

    I use the education expense quite a bit. One thing that’s important to me is the Japanese idea of kaizen, of continuous education—and of having an experimental mindset.

    Trisha Okubo, Maison Miru

    18. Magazines

    Subscriptions to trade magazines related to your industry are tax deductible, too. Make sure they’re specifically connected to your industry, though. General interest business magazines do not qualify.

    Travel 19. Business Vehicle and Travel Expenses

    As an ecommerce entrepreneur, you’re probably mobile.

    If you use your vehicle to transport packages (for instance, to the post office), meet with clients, or carry out any other business operations, you have a range of business expenses you can choose to claim.

    When your vehicle is used exclusively for business purposes, you can deduct the full expense of its operation. But if you use it for both business and personal purposes, you’ll need to calculate the percentage of the cost of operation that applies to business. 

    You have two options for claiming a business mileage deduction:

    • The standard deduction, as of 2017, is $0.535 per mile. Track this throughout the year with an app like MileIQ, and check the relevant IRS page every financial year in case the rate has changed.
    • The actual cost of what you paid in vehicle costs over the course of the year—including fuel, maintenance, and repairs.

    Other travel expenses you incur in the course of doing business—parking fees, cab fares, or conferences tickets, for example—can be claimed.

    For more information on this deduction, check out our guide on how to deduct the cost of business travel.

    What About Other Business Expenses?

    Depending on the nature of your business, there may be other expenses you can claim on your tax return.

    The IRS deems a business expense to be tax deductible if it is “ordinary and necessary.” Meaning, it is an expense you would incur ordinarily in the course of conducting business, and it is necessary for your business to operate.

    When in doubt, remember this guideline, and hang onto the receipts attached to any business related expenditure. That way you can (and should) double check with your CPA to confirm what is, and what isn’t, tax deductible before you file your return. 

    We’ve included a list of essential business expenses ecommerce business owners should consider claiming on their tax returns. For a wider-ranging look at business expenses for your small business, check out our article on small business tax deductions and how to claim them.

    You may be tempted to get creative with tax deductions. But the world of business expenses is full of grey areas, and it can be easy to overstep the boundaries set by the IRS. As always, talk to your CPA or tax advisor before claiming any expenses on your return.

    The information in this article is intended for U.S. based businesses only. This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.
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    shopify-author bryce warnes About The Author

    Bryce Warnes writes for Bench, the online bookkeeping service for ecommerce entrepreneurs. With Bench, you get a team of bookkeepers—who do your books, so you don’t have to—and simple, elegant software to track your finances. Start your free trial.

    [Author: Guest Contributor]

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