Getting a Trademark

Getting a Trademark
Getting a Trademark

As one of the smallest businesses in the City of Alexandria, VA, I never really considered getting a trademark.

My previous employer, a small software development firm applied and received trademarks, but it was always an expensive and lengthy process that was accomplished by the law office that represented the company.

In the summer of 2013, I decided to maximize the use of my home and increase my income. My home and garden became an AirBnB. And the first guest to stay with us was an attorney for the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, just down the street. We hit it off right and were friends. He stayed with us for over a month while searching for a permanent place to live.

After moving here and getting settled in at his new office, our friend offered to help file my trademark application. At that point, I figured it was a great opportunity to add creditability to my small business. And receiving inside help with my trademark meant my application went through the full process without any problems in just five months, they had a four month backlog when I applied.

Looking back, the biggest issue with applying for a trademark is that it is public record. There are entire businesses set up in the City of Alexandria to trick you into thinking you are getting information updates about your application from the Patent Trade Office (PTO), which includes payment requirements that are the exact amounts PTO will soon be charging for your trademark. These fake communications come in emails and U.S. Mail with titles and addresses very similar to the real PTO. If you’re not paying attention, you fall for it. Several times I sent these along to our friend asking if it was real or fake. PTO knows this is going on and some clients do not have the funds for their application because they’ve already paid the fake businesses, not knowing. For now, you just need to pay close attention to not fall victim to these scams.

As a small business, be open to finding new ways to build your credibility. Recognize a great opportunity when it presents itself. It may not always be within your timetable.

The Importance of a Professional Headshot

Your headshot says a lot about you. Do you look like a confident person? Do you take care in your appearance? Do you seem like a professional? These are all questions that hiring departments may think of or clients may wonder when choosing you. Whether they are looking at your LinkedIn profile or choosing your services based on the quality of your business card it may have more to do with your headshot than you might think.

Stand Tall No one sees confidence in a person that slouches. Stand up tall when having your headshot taken so that your posture is expert. If this is difficult for you, try squaring your hips and lifting your chest. Then imagine a string pulling you up like a balloon lifting you into the air. Nothing says confidence like good posture.

Smile Like You Mean It Some of the best headshots come from your natural radiant smile. Like the kind of smile where you just laughed. So fake it. Laugh and you will find your natural smile comes shines through.

Color Palettes for Your Skin, Hair and Eyes I love power colors for those in leadership roles, or those seeking leadership roles. Reds can come off as very attention grabbing and classic. Oranges however, depending on the skin tone could be very off putting. When choosing your palette look at a variety of options and hold the colors up to your face. To they make you look washed out or on the contrary do they draw attention to your eyes and make them pop? You want to find out what your color palate is first and then create your look from there. Do you look best in vibrant colors or earth tones. If you are uncertain which color palette best suits you, bring a few options to your session and go over them with your photographer.

Professional Headshots

Simple is Best Again, play up the textures and add in a necklace, some earrings or a nice watch but make sure you are remembering “simple”. You can really over do it with loud patterns like stripes or circular patterns on your shirt or blazer. For those of you that wear makeup, this is a time for the lipstick and mascara. Clean makeup is best as well. Leave the glitter and shimmer at home and opt for matte colors that accentuate your natural look.

High Resolution vs. Web Resolution If you want to print your headshot for promotional purposes make sure you get a release to do so as well as high resolution images. Likewise, if you would like to use your headshot online you will want a web resolution image. Make sure you are clear with your photographer to ensure that you get the images that you want at their best quality for the purposes that you intend them.

Your Photographer Can Make You Lose Weight Instantly Before you get too excited, understand that your photographer is not going to accompany you the the gym or prescribe you a cleanse for days leading up to your session. But, your photographer does know some tricks of the trade that can make you appear more thinned out. For example, say that you have been blessed with not one but two chins, we can remove that for you. And I am not talking post processing so much as when we take your headshot we can manipulate your profile to remove your double chin and overall bring the viewer into the image. A good photographer can photograph you in a way that makes the observer look for a few seconds longer at your headshot.

And sometime those extra seconds, that make you stand at the forefront of all the other applicants, make all the difference.

 

You can reach me at:

(202) 681-9848

[email protected]

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

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Owning It

Owning a small business is like starting a family but often I feel like a single parent with quintuplets.

When I first began my business in 2012 I filed out all of the correct paperwork. As it would seem, I did so in the most backwards order I could imagine. This was not by my poor planning as much as it was my overall lack of knowledge about the entire process, which between you and I is not incredibly obvious even after having gone through it. I do have to give credit where it is due and I owe a lot to the Small Business Development Center as I may not be where I am today without their guidance.

As a small business owner I have had to wear many hats and to keep my costs low I have had to wear all of those hats on my own.Meghan

The Photographer As a lead photographer I have enjoyed the ability to be as structured or organic as I like and have been able to be creative with on the spot changes due to weather, venue and wardrobe mishaps. I feel that this is my strongest role and one that I am constantly improving and honing. A big thanks to friend and fellow photographer Sam Dingley for my stunning headshots. That comes off like I am bragging about me, but I promise I am bragging about his photography skills.

The Website Designer In all fairness the bare bones of my website was originally created by a friend Kendall Totten Design who is an incredible developer but is now ran almost entirely by me. I try to check in with her once or twice a year to do an overall update to my site when I need assistance with code or say, I accidently delete a section of content. Oops. But other then that, all content, now comes from me in all of my glorious grammatical errors.

The Ad Executive I do my best to funnel all social media traffic back to my website but at this time do not use any paid advertisements to gain clients. My social media presence is crucial to my image so I do my best to keep my brand consistent. My logo was again created by a dear friend Mindy McPeak Illustration and my business cards and header by another Graphic Designer friend Danielle Webb who I think I traded the designs of for wine and cheese. Overall my business is driven by word of mouth. My clients return year after year and tell their friends about their experience with me and in turn become new clients.

The Attorney I cannot afford one at this time and so I am my own legal counsel. I have done my best to be upstanding and have tried to protect myself by using contracts and holding a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). I even keep my business bank account separate from my personal account. I figure there is no excuse for being careless so I might as well be prepared.

The Salesman I like to pride myself on my ability to sell. I used to sell for J.Crew and could sell corduroys and chino’s like it was my job. And at Cheesetique I used to sell cheese and wine like it was my job, because at one time it was my job. But now, I am in the business of selling myself. Gasp. And this is not easy for me. I believe I am an incredible artist and yet it takes everything in me, to sell me. It is not like I bathe in confidence but I do have to overcome myself sometimes and sell my experience, skill and artistry.

The Accountant I file my own taxes. I create my own budget. I try to keep my advertising costs and business expenses low. I pay sales tax in three states and currently for an LLC in one. I file everything on my own that I need to keep my business running and upstanding with the law.

The Balance I am a full time wife and mother and so it is essential that I maintain a balance with my work. I tend to work nights (editing) and weekends (photographing) when my partner can be with our little one. The lifestyle of a Wedding and Portrait Photographer lends itself well to my available schedule.

Starting Your Own Business? Ask for Help The Small Business Development Center of Alexandria was an excellent resource for me when I began my business and they helped to point me in the right direction and showed me where to file my LLC, Business License, Trade Name and Sales Tax. I also had to set up an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS and I would not have known this had it not been for their assistance. I also took advantage of their social media counseling which has proven to be priceless.

You can reach me at:

 

(202) 681-9848

[email protected]

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

 

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Follow me on Google+

Does Your Small Business Need an Attorney?

At a recent Alexandria Small Business Roundtable, business owners discussed whether they needed an attorney for their business. All businesses must deal with some legal issues when they get started including the first step of registering and licensing their business. Determining which business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp, etc.) will work best for your business… Read more »

The post Does Your Small Business Need an Attorney? appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Do You Need An Attorney BlogAt a recent Alexandria Small Business Roundtable, business owners discussed whether they needed an attorney for their business. All businesses must deal with some legal issues when they get started including the first step of registering and licensing their business. Determining which business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp, etc.) will work best for your business is a question that involves issues of liability and taxation.

There is some legal advice on the internet regarding these different business structures (www.nolo.com and www.bos.virginia.gov are among the best), but each business owners’ circumstances and desires are unique. It is always recommended that you have a consultation with an attorney to pick the structure that is right for you. If after this consultation you determine that a sole proprietorship will work for you, the business license is something that you can file for yourself.

Likewise, if a simple LLC will be your structure, you can file the paperwork, whether through an attorney, directly with the State Corporation Commission, or through the Virginia One-Stop website (www.bos.virginia.gov). If you will be structured as a more complicated LLC (several persons being members) or some form of corporation, it is always recommended that you work with an attorney to get set up correctly. Things like by-laws for a corporation or Operating Agreement for a LLC should also be reviewed by an attorney.

There are other areas where the consulting services of a small business attorney are recommended. Often, people come in to see us at the SBDC because their landlord has invoked some clause in their lease that they feel will hurt their business. If an attorney had reviewed the lease and explained important provisions to them before they signed it, they would be less likely to be surprised by “hidden clauses”.

Likewise, if a business owner is hiring employees, he or she may want to review Human Resources laws and regulations with an attorney or HR professional to be sure that they are complying with all federal, state and local requirements in hiring. Depending on the type of business, there may be contracts with vendors or customers that should be completely explained and understood before they are signed by the business owner.

If you have a relationship with a small business attorney because they have helped you to get set up, lease space, develop contracts, or hire employees, you have a business partner who is engaged in your business. While there will be some cost involved in this relationship, you need to consider that the price for peace of mind. Over the life of your business, there are always things that can happen that will put you in “crisis mode” – someone falls in your shop, claims to get sick from your food, an employee files a complaint, etc. Whether these issues have merit or not, business owners must deal with them.

Having an attorney who already knows you and your business can go a long way to furthering your success.  It will also make sense financially, since you will not be paying someone to come up to speed at the higher “emergency or representation” rates or fees, rather than the generally lower fees for consulting services. “Pay a little bit now, or a lot later” is something to keep in mind.

The Alexandria SBDC has a referral list of local attorneys that our clients have used and liked. We do not put anyone on the list unless we have seen how they operate and we are comfortable with them. All of the attorneys on our list have also agreed to offer a brief free “parameter setting” consultation.

You may wish to interview a few attorneys to find one that fits both the needs of your business and your comfort level in terms of personality and cost. Do not be afraid to ask questions about specialty areas and cost – your attorney expects these questions and should be eager to respond to them.  If you establish and grow this relationship with your small business attorney, you have a partner for the life of your business.

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