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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Saga of a Small Business Owner: Perfect Pitch

Charades - Talent FrontRecently, I played a vigorous game of charades with a group of friends. The players’ acting abilities were worthy of an Oscar — ridiculously creative, intuitive, and skillful . . . with the exception of one of us who told us in advance that he did not want to play because he was terrible at the game. I thought he was kidding. After all, who’s bad at charades? However, without running his overall gamesmanship into the ground, I have to agree with him — he definitely needs to stick to bridge.

Why was he so bad? For starters, when he acted out a clue, he came up with one image/plan and stuck to it. For example, for the Life of Pi movie, he drew an apple pie in the air and kept drawing it with his hands until he ran out of time. Despite the fact people were shouting circle, globe, or anything even remotely round, he continued in exasperation to make the same circular motion ignoring the fact that his team is totally off base. When it was all over and the movie title disclosed, we bombarded him with comments like “Why didn’t you try to act out the other words? How come you didn’t try to show someone doing math? How about acting out a lion?” He sat down with “I told you so” written all over his face. Our team was hopeful that we would make up the loss on the next clue. Better luck next time.

When I started this business, I had a similar experience. My elevator pitch was horrible: someone would ask me what I did and I would say “recruitment process outsourcing or RPO.” Dead space. I wouldn’t add any additional information; I’d just wait for the next question. I’d think, “Why should I try to improve upon the exact right answer to the question? I’d just succinctly said what I did. What more should I say?” There never was a follow up question. Not good. Talk about missing a clue!

After three or four of these occurrences, I started to register the confusion in the eyes of my audience. A big “Huh?” hovered over their heads and their eyes would lose contact with mine for a nanosecond. Thankfully, one day, someone was bold enough to ask, “I’m sorry, but what does that mean exactly?” Oh great, I had a communications problem.

Because I don’t believe I’m the only one out there with a “pitch” problem, here are some practical thoughts on how to develop an elevator spiel that is actually heard and acknowledged by your audience.

Technically right, practically wrong. Actually, there is nothing wrong with my saying RPO because that is technically what I do. I work with organizations on their recruitment operations – creating a recruiting strategy, providing resources to support that strategy, and finding people to fill their roles. However, as I quickly realized, no one outside of the recruiting/talent acquisition world has a clue what that means. And, even within the recruiting industry, RPO providers define their services very differently so confusion exists within the bounds of my sector as well. The bottom line: be wary of industry jargon, especially acronyms.

Practice makes perfect. Although I had worked on my answer to the question, what does your business do? I did not try it out on anyone before I used it in a business context. What would have happened had I tried my pitch out on a couple of willing colleagues? How hard would that have been to ask a few people for their impressions? Not hard at all. In fact, they would have been outright happy to be asked.

Stay current. The colleague who asked me to describe what I meant when I said RPO, also helped me develop a new line. We decided to describe my business in the context of a more popular outsourcing model — human resources outsourcing or HRO, the practice of hiring experts in HR to either consult with your business or take on your HR challenges virtually. So what do I do? TalentFront focuses on providing outsourced HR support specifically in recruiting or talent acquisition. Although this resonates in meetings I’m having now, I constantly remind myself that a decade ago, no one knew what HRO was either. Gradually, people will know what RPO means and I’ll learn to use that term again or better yet, we’ll evolve to a new level and invent more language to describe the field. Remember: what works today might not work tomorrow so we entrepreneurs need to continue to refine your pitch over time.

At the end of the day, I circled back around to all of those people I met who looked at me quizzically. Their response was overwhelmingly positive and has led to referrals for new business, candidates for opportunities with my clients, and general well wishes. It hasn’t led to any additional opportunities to play charades, but who knows? The year’s still young and I’m a much more empathetic teammate.

Marcia Call has worked in the human capital/staffing arena for more than a decade. Most recently, she founded the firm, TalentFront, to serve the needs of companies and organizations seeking support in the development and implementation of recruiting processes.

From the Catwalk to the Storefront: Beauty Trends for Small Business Women Entrepreneurs

From the Catwalk to the Small Business StorefrontAs the seasons come and go the latest beauty trends go just as quickly, if not faster.

So how can you as a busy business owner possibly keep up? And what impact does beauty really have on you and your business?

Well, although you might not frequent the latest red carpet event, as a business owner you do have opportunities to attend networking events, chamber meetings, and of course interact with your customers and clients. Doing business in such a progressive and transient city like Alexandria means not only staying ahead of your industry’s trends, but also staying ahead of or at least in step with the national beauty trends.

If your makeup look or lack thereof feels outdated and your idea of getting ready for work is washing your face and throwing a tube of chap stick in your back pocket, then keep reading…these recommendations are for you. And even if you do take an extra moment to apply a bit of concealer and powder before you hit the office, these recommendations can further enhance what you are already doing.

Yes, I know the trends are sometimes overwhelming to re-create, from the “classic red lip” to the sultry “smokey eye”, but here are three Summer 2012 trends that are simple to incorporate into your oh so busy schedule:

  1. The “Nude” Lip: This simply means that you wear a lipstick that shows up about a shade or two lighter than your natural lip color. This allows you to have a very light wash of color on the lips that is neutral yet polished. Depending on your preference you might try one of the following lipstick formulas available:
  • Classic Matte Lipstick ( dry texture, most staining on the lips, and absolutely shine free)
  • Satin Lipstick (provides a little bit more moisture than the matte formula, but is still shine free)
  • Crème Lipstick (indicative of its name, soft, creamy, rich, and well pigmented with a bit of shine)

Once you choose your nude lipstick shade and texture, feel free to add a little glamour to your lips by applying a sheer, creamy lip gloss for finishing touches. This trend is an easy one to keep in step with once you find the color that best complements your natural lip complexion. Wear this color when doing daily business and attending weekly networking events and meetings. You will look well put together and the image of your business will benefit also.

  1. Voluminous Eye Lashes: This is an easy way to give the appearance of more open and awake eyes. Connect eyes with your team and customers, giving them your full attention. Studies show that as much as 93% of a message’s meaning is communicated non-verbally, with eye contact being one of the most expressive. Since eye contact is as important of a communicator for your business, why not explore some of the ways to make your eyes stand out in your next meeting.

Here are a few of my favorite eye lash enhancers:

  • L’Oreal Paris’ Double Extend Mascara (double-sided to include a primer and black mascara to add volume, length and long-wearing lashes)
  • Revlon’s “Fantasy Lengths” self-adhesive false lashes (a fool-proof mechanism to adding immediate volume to your lashes without the hassle of an adhesive)
  • MAC Cosmetic’s Prep and Prime Lash Serum (a safe and inexpensive way to grow longer fuller lashes; this product boasts results in just 6-8 weeks)
  1. Finger Nail Care: Nail your next deal with a handful of colorful and trendy nails suitable for the most professional of interactions. With your hands always on display, it’s imperative to maintain a clean and polished finish to your nails. Now although the latest “nail accessory and fanged nail shape” trend may not fit your industry, you can still participate with color. And this season’s nail trends make it easy to do with the launch of hundreds of new colors even for the most neutral of business owners. On your next visit to the nail salon or the local drugstore choose to be in-trend with your color choice:
  • Maybelline New York’s Color Show nail polish (choose from over 30 new shades)
  • Gel Color by OPI (the latest way to give your nails a salon finish at home; instant drying and smudge proof)
  • Essie Nail Polish (offering a polish color for every woman; select one of the summer collection’s subtly bright, but office right colors)

This summer’s beauty trends are all about maintaining a stress-free yet sophisticated look in the midst of what is often a thriving time for business owners. Don’t allow the busyness of your business leave you in the dark of the awesome trends of the season; step out while the sun’s still shining.

Enjoy the remainder of the summer, and take a moment to step off your storefront and onto the runway; it’s never too late to catch up!

“Multiplying Courage and Confidence,”

Mrs. Candace Claiborn, owner of C Squared Artistry