Buy American

With Independence Day just around the corner, it’s an appropriate time to remind everyone to Buy American.  It is important to the nation’s economy and it’s particularly important to small businesses.  Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, interact with other small businesses and cross-promote when possible: each one helping one.  They are a fine example of the generosity that America possesses.  Here’s a personal example.  Casart recently selected Homebody DC  as the location for a photo shoot.  The staging was done by stylist Samina Vieth and the photographer was Yulia Mikhalchuk.   All are members of the DC design community.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employ just over half of all private sector employees. Small business have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the last 15 years and pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll… As a nation, we must support this. Recent reports indicate that if each American spent a dollar a day onU.S.made goods this alone would create almost 1 Million new jobs in a year.  When you go shopping for your daily groceries, clothing or home improvement tools, start locally, buy American and keep our jobs here. Even if it costs a couple extra dollars, supporting small businesses is the only way we can get our nation up and running again.


Casart coverings is currently participating in the Chase/Living Social national initiative to help small businesses.  Small businesses can submit their application to be considered to be one of 12 recipients of a $250,000 grant.  To be eligible for consideration, the business must first receive 250 votes via Facebook by June 30th.  We would certainly appreciate your support ofAlexandria based Casart coverings in our effort to get those 250 votes.  If you don’t have a Facebook account, please tell your friends about it, ask them to vote and tell their friends.  We’ve set our goal at 15 votes a day and we are encouraged that we will reach the 250 votes with the support of other businesses, friends and family.  Here’s what you do:

Click Mission: Small Business.  Go to Support on the right side. Login with your Facebook account. Search for Casart in the businesses (no city or state needed). Click vote and please share with your friends.


Last year ABC News did a special about products that are made in America and how just increasing what we buy by 1- 2% can boost our economy.

The series took a family’s home and removed all the products that were not made in America. Surprisingly, this was the majority of what they owned. The challenge was to replace everything with items made inAmerica. The ABC team found most of the items here in the USA but they were hard to come by and had to be searched to be found. The only thing they couldn’t locate was a coffee maker. The family had to live without this. I don’t know if I could.

There are numerous web sites that list American made items and each week the Travel Channel visits a different city and features  American made products.


Americans Working lists these top  reasons why it’s important to buy American made products.

1. Jobs – Above all else, when you buy American you save or create AMERICAN JOBS! These are the jobs that are at the foundation of our economy, and have unfortunately been moving overseas, but by buying American you can help to reverse that trend.

2. Environmental – Many of the top countries where our goods come from have little or no regulations to protect
the environment, and the manufacturers have no regard for the earth and they pollute and abuse the soil, air, and the water. When you buy American you know there are regulations in place to protect the environment so our children can appreciate this beautiful country as much as we do.

3. Human Rights – The countries the United States import from often have nonexistent standards regular working conditions. Many of the factories producing US bound goods are worse than our prisons, and filled with children working extremely long days. No one wants to support that, and by buying American you know you aren’t we have regulations and agencies in this country to prevent those types of atrocities.

4. Democracy – Americans believe in and stand up for democracy whenever we can, and by choosing to buy American you are supporting the ideals of democracy.

5. Conservation – When buying products that are produced overseas built into the price is the cost of shipping that product all the way from that country to the United States, usually crossing the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. This wastes an extremely large amount of petroleum and produces unnecessary emissions into the atmosphere.

6. Domino Effect – When you buy American that money stays in the United States. That money goes to pay the wage of many people that are directly or indirectly responsible for creating your product. Each of them in turn spends this money on goods (hopefully American made) and services, and the cycle continues. The more you buy American, the more the economy is stimulated, and the more jobs are created.  Plus, American workers pay taxes on wages earned in America.

7. MORE JOBS – For every manufacturing job there are FIVE additional jobs created. Do the math. Dollar for dollar it is a great investment in this amazing country!

It’s nice to know if my walls were bare and I wanted to decorate them that all phases of  Casart’s production are made in America, from the substrate’s manufacturing, the PSA(pressure sensitive adhesive, which is water-based), to the artistic creation and printing as well as the shipping. We’re doing our part to keep this economy going. These All-American, artistic stair risers can be found on our Architectural page.

Here are just some of the Patriotic Casart Design which along with all our wall coverings are Made in America!

We are proud to be        

Ashley Spencer & Casart Coverings Crew


Feature Image Photo courtesy of Patrick Hoesly 

Should I Hire an Employee?

The decision on whether to hire a person is especially critical whether you are just beginning to grow or need specialists you are not sure you can afford.How do you decide whether or not to hire employees?ASK YOURSELF:  1. Is this work which must be done over a long term?

If the work is on-going and critical to your organization’s success, consider hiring or leasing an employee.  If it is not, consider other options.

Work can be done by independent contractors who specialize in the area, by temporary staffing services, by consultants for a project or a specific need, by an interim executive, by a paid intern, or by sub-contracting.  Would one of these options work better for you?

Too often, small organizations add a non-core position because of short-term or part-time needs and then realize that work has expanded to fill the time, not because of actual necessity.  So a real 10-20 hour a week need has become a full-time employee.

2. Can I afford to hire a regular employee?

Hiring employees who support your revenue or mission growth is smart.  But once you hire, you cannot skip pay periods, tax or legal obligations.  Costs
include the person’s pay and also:
* mandated benefits including: OASDI (‘Social security’ and Medicare), unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance
* costs for space and equipment for the employee
* pay processing and accounts establishment costs
* legal compliance and risk management costs

Check out your state’s small business services or your local economic development agency – these provide detailed guidance on any local laws you need to comply with.

OK, I want an Employee

Think: What type of work and level do I really need?

Classically, small employers want folks to wear multiple hats.  But the work combinations must make sense and be right for your organization’s needs.

There may be a terrific sales person who is happy to be doing administrative work half of the time but it is unlikely!   Two part-timers or outsourcing one part makes far more sense where the work needs are very different.

The other classic is to want a senior-level person to show you are growing and to get some strategic advice, but want that person to also do basic level work.  A CTO is not going to do programming.  And hiring a CxO of any sort usually results in hiring several more layers as well.  So, you had a Manager of Accounting and one accounting clerk before and now have a CFO and 5 staff, but no more revenues.

Not sure how to structure a position?

Take a good look at similar job ads from larger organizations: what set of skills and requirements do they combine?  Many put fairly detailed descriptions on their website employment section.  Check to see if your trade association offers sample job descriptions you could tailor to your needs.  Ask other business owners.  Ask your vendors in that area for ideas.

Before you add a position, make a clear list of exactly what business necessity creates the need, all specific responsibilities that need to be fulfilled, and what increased revenue will result.

OK I’ll outsource    I don’t need an employee, but the work needs to be done.

Make a list of potential options.  As with an employee, structure the work clearly.  Ask your advisors and network for recommendations.  Current vendors are a great resource; e.g., CPAs often know other services providers, such as IT support, and can recommend people to meet your needs.

Grow Smart!

Hiring people who can contribute to your organization’s growth and success is an important step.  A little thought and effort first to ensure you only add costs you can afford and you spend your money on the best possible solution for your needs will repay you handsomely.  Unfortunately, too often the opposite is true – and having a staff becomes a nightmare of added work, added costs, and negative results.

Ask questions, seek advice, consider alternatives – do all the things that you would do before offering any new product or service to your customers or clients.  You will grow much more successfully with less hassle if you do!

Upcoming Events at the Alexandria SBDC [event]

Alexandria Small Business Development Center presents June 2012 Series of Events.

We so hope you will consider attending one or more of these events designed to help your business and nonprofit thrive and grow. Please note where registration is required. Remember, there is NO FEE for attending any of these programs.

As always, please contact us with your business concerns! For all these and more, just visit our website to learn more and register/rsvp.

Brown Bag Lunch “Get More Time Out of Your Day” presented by Holly Herman of Achieving Skills Resources!

Tuesday, June 5: Do you get everything on your “to do” list finished?  Do you have interruptions that derail your whole day?  Do you ever wish you had time to accomplish more?  Do you feel like you should be more productive?  If you can’t get everything crossed off your list, you’ll learn how to double your productivity and work fewer hours.  Held in our office from noon – 1:00 pm. Register online or call 703-778-1292 for more information.  Doors open at 11:45 am.

START, MANAGE, GROW WORKSHOP “Doing Business in the City of Alexandria”!

Tuesday, June 12: Over the last few years, the City of Alexandria has implemented a number of strategic changes that have made it easier for small businesses to thrive in the City.  Hear directly from: Planning & Zoning, Code Adminstration, Multi-Agency Permit Center, Transportation & Environmental Services, Department of Finance and the Alexandria Health Department.  New City Manager, Rashad Young, will be the keynote speaker and will highlight City partnerships with its much-needed economic engine: SMALL BUSINESSES!  There will be a brief Q & A and then an opportunity to talk one-on-one with officials in breakout sessions. The event location is The Mary G. Gates Learning Center, United Way of America, 701 North Fairfax Street, 8:00 am – 10:30 am.  Register online or call 703-778-1292 for more information.

Business Development Roundtable “How to Make Referral Networking Work for You”!

Tuesday, June 19: This meeting will be held in our office at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from noon – 1:00 pm. No pre-registration is necessary. If you have any questions, contact Gloria Flanagan by email or by phone at 703-778-2961.

Social Media Counseling for Alexandria City businesses!

Tuesday, June 19 & Wednesday, June 20: We offer one-on-one social media counseling with Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting.  These 45-minute individual sessions will take place in our office. If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, contact Patricia Melton by email or by phone at 703-778-2960.

Save the date for these upcoming events:

Tuesday, July 10: Brown Bag Lunch noon – 1:00 pm “Building Your Identity: Branding 101”

Tuesday, July 17: Business Development Roundtable noon – 1:00 pm Topic: TBA

Wednesday, July 18: START, MANAGE, GROW WORKSHOP 8:00 am – 10:00 am “Social Media in the Retail Environment”


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pinterest for Small Business Retailers: Marketing Hot or Not?

Red Pinterest logoIf you are savvy about social networking, you know that Pinterest is all the rage lately. But, do we really know what Pinterest is? According to its website, the social media site is a “Virtual Pinboard” that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The About page talks of using the service to plan weddings, redecorate your home and organize recipes–a far cry from a platform that contemplated a business use down the road. However, as with everyone on the Web today, if it’s free and you can create a community around your product, service or industry, businesses flock there trying to push their wares. Pinterest has struggled to manage the change, but certain business users have stuck with it as the platform addresses these missing functionalities for marketing purposes. I’m going to try to contextualize what makes Pinterest so appealing to people, what I see as a challenge for Pinterest’s growth, and then what aspects of the service are positive for Small Business retailers on Pinterest. From there, you can make your decision whether investing in Pinterest is right for you and your business.

Continue reading…

Smart Entrepreneurship: Small Business Financial Management

Small Business Financial ManagementGuest Post by Barbara Greenwald of Sheinwald Financial Strategies.


I define “Smart Entrepreneurship,” as the willingness to plan ahead, adjust your plan as you go along, know your own limitations and when to consult others, only take risks that you understand and can afford to take, deliver your product or service with the utmost quality and professionalism, and always manage your business functions (especially your financial management) well.

Owning your own business requires research, planning, dedication, persistence, problem solving, and resilience. Whether it is generating revenues, keeping the cash flow going, maintaining employee morale, or managing the growth of the company, the buck stops with you.

My insights are gleaned from 30 years of lending money to small businesses. My efforts as a financial strategist are always to provide guidance that will contribute towards a smoother ride. If owning your own business were an easy path to success, however you define success, then everybody would be doing it.

Do you have 6-12 months cash to support both your personal and business cash requirements? 

You want your business to be a source of pride and fulfillment, not a source of worry and distress. Why not strive to be in a position where you can minimize any worry about money? Properly managing financial risk is one of the most important elements of running your business.

Having sufficient resources will permit you to concentrate on generating sales, hiring and training the right employees, and implementing operations. All too frequently businesses are going along and a cash flow shortage suddenly occurs when a receivable doesn’t come in when expected; or when a business expands rapidly. To better understand when revenue growth will eat cash, ask your accountant, your banker, or a financial strategist like myself. .

Depending upon the size of the business and the pace of its growth, a periodic financial check-up with an expert is advisable. Just like your personal health, if you don’t catch a problem early enough, it can be much harder to resolve in a favorable manner. It’s advantageous to be proactive and keep the financial health of your business fine-tuned.

What do the right financial advisors mean for your future success?

If a company doesn’t have its books set up properly to reflect its financial status at any given point in time, and it has not selected an accountant to pull regular financial statements, the owner won’t know if the company is making money, losing money, or breaking even, and will not have the financial reporting to make sound financial decisions when future opportunities or other challenges present themselves. Lack of knowledge about a company’s financial status is one of the biggest financial risks a business owner undertakes.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have an accountant and an accurate accounting system kept current?
  2. Have you found a banker who will follow your business progress and be prepared in advance to set up a financing facility?

What is your plan if you find that you are making progress towards increased growth and profitability, and you find you need more capital?

If you cannot identify sources for cash for the fixed overhead for your personal and business expenses for at least six months, which might include a spouse’s salary, consider a back-up plan. Finances can operate on a shoestring and even transform you into a better money manager, but can also create a more nerve-wracking experience and a greater possibility of failure.

The most important message I can deliver is to understand the financial risks you are undertaking, the business implications, and your own personal risk tolerance. It is important to only take risks you can afford to take to preserve the long term potential of your business venture.  Cash provides the maximum flexibility to get through downturns in your business or the economy. In the end, everything starts and ends with finance.

If you are a Government Contractor, please join me for my upcoming talk:
Tuesday, May 8: “Financing for Government Contracting: The Importance of Timing” presented by Barbara Greenwald, Sheinwald Financial Strategies. Held at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from 9:00 – 11:00 AM. Register online or call 703-778-1292 for more information.

Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda

Google to Great Webinars: Google Sites

Using Google to Be Found, Part 1 – Google Sites from Ray Sidney-Smith on Vimeo.

In our first Webinar, we present Google Sites, the Internet giant’s tool to help your Small Business quickly and easy draft, edit and publish a Web site in minutes!

Google describes its product as:

With Google Sites, you can easily create and update your own site. Google Sites allows you display a variety of information in one place—including videos, slideshows, calendars, presentations, attachments, and text—and share it for viewing or editing with a small group, an entire organization, or the world. You always control who has access to your site.

We go over you would use Google Sites to plan and implement a new site, how to modify the look and feel, how to navigate the basic and some intermediate features of the product. During the Webinar, we allotted ample Q&A time with our favorite “Google-ologist,” Ray Sidney-Smith, and had some great questions!

Do you have a question after watching the video? Ask it in the comments below, or tweet @w3consulting and include the hashtag #googletogreat in your tweet. We’ll post a video response to your question!

Protecting Yourself as You Do Good for Others

insurance (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

You are a member of a non-profit board of directors.  The organization works with at risk youth.  An employee engages in conduct that brings the non-profit negative publicity and the inevitable lawsuits.  Or, the organization fires an employee and the former employee files a employment discrimination complaint.   In both cases, the complaints name individual members of the board of directors as well as the organization, its officers and certain employees as defendants.  What happens now ?  Who hires and, perhaps more importantly, pays for defense counsel ?  Is it you ? Who pays for any settlement or judgment ?  Does your homeowners insurance step in ?  If you are a professional who carries professional liability insurance, will it step in ?  Does the non-profit have directors & officers liability insurance (D&O) and does it cover this type of matter?

Giving back to the community by lending time and talent to non-profit boards of directors is a rewarding experience;  you, the non-profit and the community enjoy great benefits.  Lawsuits never materialize.  However, when someone files a lawsuit and names the board members, the lawsuit exposes the individual board member to potential liability, to the expense of retaining defense counsel and the possibility of funding, at least a portion, of a settlement or judgment.  Without some sort of insurance to pay the bills, the individual board member is responsible for his counsel fees and any settlement or judgment share.

Most insurance coverage that individuals carry do not cover such lawsuits.  Homeowners insurance and their umbrella policies are unlikely to pay for the costs of defense or a settlement or judgment in these cases.  Automobile policies likewise will not cover these lawsuits. If you are a professional who carries professional liability insurance, it is also unlikely to cover these lawsuits.

To protect itself and its board of directors, non-profits should carry D&O insurance.  Such insurance protects individual members of the board, the organization itself and, depending on the policy, volunteers of the organization.  Depending on the terms of the D&O policy, it will pay for the costs of defending a lawsuit, which maybe more expensive than any settlement, pay the settlement or judgment (assuming the policy covers the underlying acts) and provide peace of mind to all involved.  Remember that you do not have to be negligent or engage in an act of malfeasance to be sued; the lawsuit need not be meritorious for the board member to be forced to retain counsel to defend a meritless suit.

Although some states, including Virginia, have statutes that limit the amount for which a member of a non-profit board is ultimately responsible, the statutes have limitations and do not compensate the members for the costs of defending the lawsuit.  Before volunteering for a board of directors position, ask the organization about its insurance coverage.  If it does not have D&O insurance, suggest that it obtain it.  If purchasing such insurance requires board approval, make acquiring it one of your first goals.  If you are already a board member, examine the organizations insurance coverage.  If the organization does not have proper coverage, work with the organization to obtain it.  It will protect not only you but the organization and its assets as well.


Casart Coverings Finds Inspiration From Maya Romanoff Wallcoverings. Where does your Small Business find inspiration?

After attending a wonderful lecture by Joyce Romanoff, President of Maya Romanoff handmade wallcoverings in March, I am now even more appreciative of their exceptional wallcovering now that I am more familiar with their process and their work ethics. I’ve been admiring this company’s products since I first saw their three dimensional Beadazzled™ wallcovering back in the late 80′s, when I attended one of the Design Houses at the Washington DC Design Center. They have since expanded this line to include Bauble, Geode, Leaf, Leaf Rain, Bijou and Marquetry. In fact, any image or photo can be “bedazzled” with hand applying glass beads over the surface. It’s quite stunning and looks like a beautiful, beaded ball gown.   

Maya Romanoff Bedazzled™ wallcovering

 Bedazzled wallpaper from Design House 2008

Joyce mentioned that their big break came when The Limited used their wallcoverings on columns on many of their flagship stores throughout the country. This helped bring broad public awareness regarding to the unique quality of Maya Romanoff wallcovering because they worked so organically well with the interiors while still making an impact.

All of their wallcoverings are handmade in some way — by fabrication and or applying a decorative finish. We watched one of the Maya Romanoff artisans show us a step-by-step demonstration of two different treatments. Many of the Maya Romanoff workers have been with the company for generations and the business is family run. I was surprised how similar the techniques were to what I and other decorative painters use for wall treatments. The difference is everyone has their own “special” ingredients for their paint wash and the substrates may be different. In this case, the finish, not unlike a brushed-on, sponged-off treatment with highlights, was applied over a clay-coated, crumpled, vinyl wallpaper.


The final result glistens. It looks wet but dries quickly with the clay treatment. It is installed flat but the crinkles and pockets of pooled pigment give the impression of a marble-like appearance

The second finish was applied over hand applied wood veneer panels, tiled as wallcovering, which almost seemed too beautiful to retouch.

This beautiful wallpaper can also be installed as ceiling tiles and with that little extra glint of crystal. Get the super glue. Yes, Swarovski crystals can be applied.

Maya Romanoff has quite a progressive history — having been around since 1969, when Maya, the company’s founder, reproduced his tie dyes as wallcovering. He is quite a successful hippie. Since then, they have led the way for producing the largest amount of handmade wallcovering, which requires a  traditional and professionally installation. They also have helped to employ and bring work to help several impoverished countries’ economies and have been given a lifetime humanitarian achievement award for their efforts.

Besides admiring their gorgeous wallcoverings and this company’s ethics, I can completely resonate with their philosophy:

  • They encourage creativity and risk taking while remaining true to business guiding principals.
  • With wall décor trends becoming more luxurious for residential and hospitality, they want their wallcoverings to have fine attention to detail without taking over a room but becoming organic with its surroundings and beautifully blend in.
  • They encourage their artisan creations to have the spontaneity and energy of a work of art.
  • They promote hand painted vinyl and realize wallcovering is not just for walls anymore and can be used on a multitude of surfaces.
  • Wallcoverings can be “green” with sustainable materials, longevity, and low VOC. Many of their wallcoverings will long outlive paint.
  • Their goal is to put the handcrafted back into value and balance handcrafted techniques with machine and technological production.

My fascination and admiration continues and even more so, after sadly learning that Maya now has advanced stage Parkinson’s Disease, so many of their charitable efforts go toward this funding. Take a look at the Maya Romanoff website; they continue to be a source of inspiration.

Although Casart Coverings does not have or could not afford to have this type of handcrafted production, we have designs that have been originally handcrafted. Our wallcovering materials, however, are not handmade and require machines and technology but the two do marry to create our final product. And of course, our wallcovering is removable and reusable and like Maya Romanoff’s can also be customized. We like this personalization part of our business. It keeps us close with our customers and helps us make an even more exceptional product to suit their needs. At present, we are really the only reusable wallcovering company offering such extensive custom services.

— Ashley Spencer