In 2023, the Minority Business Development Agency (U.S. Department of Commerce) announced the “Capital Readiness Program,” a grant competition that sought applicants who: (1) help socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs build capacity; (2) provide access to capital opportunities; and (3) provide access to networks. WESST pursued this opportunity to significantly increase our technical assistance and microlending capacity and designed the WESST CAP-Ability Project. Of the 1,600 applicants from across the nation, WESST is proud to announce that our CAP-Ability Project proposal was among the 43 proposals selected to receive an award. The CAP-Ability Project will…
“Can I sell my products or services?” “Who will buy what I sell?” and “How do I know if my products or services have value?” The answer to all of those questions lies in market research.
“Market research” is a term used to describe a broad range of ways to find out information about target customers, competitors and industry. When doing research, it is important to be clear about which aspect of the market is the subject of the research: customers, competition or industry.
A niche is a narrow subsection of the market that is not being served or not being well served. Even though it is narrow by nature, it should not be so narrow that there are not enough customers to sustain a business. The most profitable niches are low on competition and high on demand. The next question might be, “Why is it useful to carefully define a market and focus on a niche?”
Prior to starting a business, it is critical for the owner(s) to determine how she/he wants it to be structured (legal entity). Choices include Sole Proprietorship, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Company, C-Corporation, and S-Corporation. Each entity has a set of characteristics, benefits, and limitations that should be considered thoroughly before selecting it.
Retail businesses usually have storage rooms to accommodate an increase in merchandise, but may not be prepared to grow the business by square footage (due to long-term leases, high rent costs, etc.). Home-based businesses or selling online might require additional space as well (especially if the garage and storage units are full), but cannot handle the increasing costs of rent, staff and shipping. So what is the answer for moving the merchandise (which is necessary to increase cash flow) without breaking the pocket book? The answer may lie is a simple notion of outsourcing shipping, packaging, and warehousing via fulfillment centers.
Money, or the lack of it, seems to be the main issue that constantly confronts small businesses. Whether the business is just starting or has been in business for awhile, they all need operating cash flow. Simply said, businesses need available cash to pay monthly bills, unforeseen expenses and for operations (keeping it afloat). Without cash flow, business owners could easily be out of business within a short time.
Often times, after paying taxes, struggling with employees and the bottom line, the tired business owner asks, “Is it worth it?” Undoubtedly it is or businesses would be closing left and right (aside from what the economy forces upon us). Nevertheless, business owners that can stay in business, after wrestling with direct and indirect obstacles, must really love what they are doing. In fact, that love and passion will be the driving force to keep the business afloat and the owner sane.
Nowadays, we live in a relaxed environment. Granted, we are higher tech (cell phones instead of party lines, lap tops instead of manual typewriters, and wide screen, HD TV instead of 12” black and white), but can we say that our lives are better? As an observer, I’m always amazed at people shopping in pajama pants, flip flops, and oversized t-shirts (those are women). In businesses, I’ve been waited on by clerks who literally looked like they had just stepped out of bed (hair scrunched up, wrinkled clothes, and far too casual for my taste). We’ve all been met with indifference, rudeness, and a lack of care for the customer. Little if no training goes into how the customer is treated or to what extent the customer is right. How many times have we asked a clerk for a size, color, or item to be told, “Everything we have is out there; if it isn’t, we don’t have it?”
It takes the perfect storm to create a successful business and even then it may be hard to get money. There are several extremely important things to have in place to successfully apply for a loan.
The ever-changing economy, consistent gas price increases, natural catastrophes and other influences keep small businesses teetering on the edge. Many have to make decisions. Do we stay open, or close? Is the daily struggle worth the meager rewards? Or, can we give ourselves a makeover and beat out the competition? What can we do to survive?
When did you last do a marketing check up? Where would you begin? Just as a doctor doing a physical checkup looks at individual symptoms, such as blood pressure, temperature, and weight, you can use a similar process to perform a marketing checkup. Take a look at your current marketing efforts and define where improvements are needed. Let’s try it.
Facebook Does it Again with Instant Personalization – Yet Another Privacy Setting Made Active by Default
“Privacy setting.” Ironically, those two words are an oxymoron when it comes to Facebook as it continues sharing more user information with third-party websites and requires us to opt out of these so-called enhanced social sharing features rather than opt in. The latest feature added to Facebook’s privacy settings is called Instant Personalization. It actually launched quietly in April of 2010, but Facebook began rolling it out the masses last week.
Spam, scams and email phishing schemes seem to spreading like wildfire via Facebook lately. With more than 550 million users, it’s not surprising that fraudsters are targeting Facebook users. The potential payoff is huge. Since a lot of my Facebook friends have recently fallen victim, I thought it was a good time to write a blog post about how to spot some of these scams, deal with them if you’ve already been tricked, and avoid them in the future.