Upcoming Events at the Alexandria SBDC

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Presents February 2012 Series of Events
We are well into 2012 with our programming designed to help your business thrive. As always, all of our events are FREE of charge!

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012:  Brown Bag Lunch- “Every Word Matters” – Learn tips for better business writing. Held from noon – 1:00 PM in our boardroom at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 and presented by Eliza Dolin, Ivy Quill Communications, LLC. REGISTER NOW!

Thursday, February 9, 2012:Google to Great Webinar- “Marketing with Google Maps” (Google Maps)- This session runs from 10:15 to 11:15 AM. To register visit our website under the “Hot Topics” heading on the home page. Miss a webinar? Go to our archived resources page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012: START MANAGE GROW Workshop – “Federal Business Development for Service Providers” presented by John Boulware, Federal Contractor Consultant; the second in a mini-series on Federal Contracting. Are you a service provider that needs help with identifying government business? Come to our expanded and interactive series designed to help you win federal contracts! Held in our office at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from 9:00 -11:00 AM. REGISTER NOW!

Thursday, February 23, 2012: Google to Great Webinar – “Being Business-Informed Using Google”(Google Reader, FastFlip & Currents). This session runs from 10:15 to 11:15 AM. To register visit our website under the “Hot Topics” heading on the home page. Miss a webinar? Go to our archived resources page.

**A hands-on ‘not to miss’ Google to Great EVENT: Only 25 can attend and you must bring your laptop or iPad**

Wednesday, February 29, 2012: “Google+ for Small business” – in this workshop, you get the best of both worlds from Alexandria SBDC and Google. First, Ray Sidney-Smith, president of W3 Consulting, a Web and digital strategy firm for Small Business, will present a strategic overview of Google+ for small businesses. Following the presentation, Ray will hand over the microphone to Googlers who will walk you through the steps to launch your own Google+ pages for your business. The session will run from 9AM to Noon in our boardroom, located at 625 N. Washington Street, and a light breakfast will be included. To register, call Pat Melton, SBDC Counselor, 703-778-2960. Because we expect this to close out early, we ask if you register, to please attend or let us know if you cannot, so others can!

Save the date for additional events that will help your business GROW:

  • Tuesday, March 6: Brown Bag Lunch“Business Structure Considerations: Legal and Tax Consequences” presented by Karen Hermann and Jen Ray, both Counsel at Crowell & Moring, LLP
  • Tuesday, March 13:“Federal Proposal Development- Focus on Technical Proposal”presented by John Boulware, Federal Contractor Consultant
  • Tuesday, March 27: “Federal Proposal Development- Focus on Cost Proposal”presented by Sequin Lukon, The Essential Agreement, LLC
  • Tuesday, April 3:  Brown Bag Lunch: From One to Many – Hiring Smartspresented byPatricia Frame, Strategies for Human Resources
  • Tuesday, April 24: “Subcontracting to Prime Federal Contractors” presented by Sequin Lukon, The Essential Agreement, LLC
  • Tuesday, May 8: “Financing for Government Contracting: The Importance of Timing”presented by Barbara Greenwald of Sheinwald Financial Strategies


Coming soon:

– Mini-series on branding your business presented by Belmont, Inc.

– Nonprofit business practices and guidance presented by Renner & Company, CPA, PC

Presidential Campaign Fundraising Has Little in Common With Small Business Financing

CNN‘s Tom Foreman explains in the network’s “Explain it to me” video series how the “presidential dash for cash” (in political parlance, campaign fundraising) laws and strategies work in simple terms. While watching the video, I realized that much of this is counter to Small Business financing and funding. Primarily, the subject of access to that capital to start or expand a Small Business. In campaign fundraising, as Mr. Foreman explicates, you can raise your own funds just like most of us who began our own businesses, but with presidential campaigns you can also choose to get matching funding from the federal government. We mere mortals do not get this preferential benefit if we go to the federal government and tell them we’d like to start a Small Business. Something mostly understood is that most funding for these presidential (and likely Congressional) campaigns come from a limited number of large donors and less of the funding comes from small-dollar donors. However, in Small Business, we have more opportunities than ever to find funding in creative ways since most small businesses can start with less than 5,000$ in capital (although 10,000$ is the average amount spent and asked for in small business loans).

If you’re looking for funding for your startup or expanding Small Business, don’t follow the norm by looking solely to financial institutions (and don’t leave them out of the funding portfolio either!) and borrowing money from family and friends (who more and more because of the economic downturn are weary to invest in new ventures). Here are a few resources for Small Business capital resources:

  • Crowdfunding: this is a relatively new concept, where you can ask many people to held invest small amounts to a larger loan amount (keeping their risk and your interest payments low); there are sites like MyMicroInvest.com and Prosper.com but there are many more players out there (so do your due diligence to make sure the sites are legit);
  • Bartering: the age-old concept of bartering with other Small Business owners here in Alexandria and the surrounding area is alive and well; learn more about bartering at the International Reciprocal Trade Association website; and,
  • Sell your Accounts Receivables: not a new concept either, it’s mostly unknown to expanding small businesses; if you have a healthy Accounts Receivable and are looking to grow your business, there are businesses that will help you do what is technically known as factoring.

Do you have other resources for finding capital for your or fellow small business? Post them in the comments!

Think. Shop. Buy. Local. Join the Movement, Small Businesses!

think. shop. buy. local: join the movement! (c) Retail Merchants AssociationIf you haven’t heard about it already, the Retail Merchants Association has launched a campaign and website, ThinkShopBuyLocal.com, to encourage consumers and businesses to join a movement to support retail business in local communities.

I can’t say it better than them on their main page, so here’s what it says about each aspect of the campaign:

Think:

  • Your local businesses give back more to the community.
  • More of your dollars stay in the community.
  • More jobs stay in the community.

Shop:

  • You can find anything you need locally.
  • You develop relationships locally.
  • You can find affordable prices in our community.

Buy:

  • For every $1 spent at local businesses, 45¢ is reinvested locally. Non-local purchases keep, at most, 15¢ in your local community.
  • Local businesses value, respect and appreciate your patronage.
  • More tax dollars go to schools and roads in your community.

Local:

Join the movement! Take the pledge to show your support: “I pledge to THINK first of my local economy, SHOP first at my local businesses, and BUY first from local companies who give back so much, in so many ways, to my community.”

So, if you know a retail small business in Alexandria that hasn’t joined, please suggest it to them and to have them spread the word to other retail small businesses. And, if you’re a small business in Alexandria, why not patronize your retail small businesses for products you need for your company? It can only help the local economy and the small business community in the City of Alexandria!

EVENT: It’s a Web Browser! No, It’s an Operating System! Wait, It’s Both!? (Google Chrome and ChromeOS)

Google to Great Webinar Series: Google Chrome and Chrome OSGoogle Chromo logo

January 26, 2012

10:15 – 11:15 am

Get a fast, free web browser!  The web browser is arguably the most important piece of software on your computer.  You spend much of your time online inside a browser: When you search, chat, email, shop, bank, read the news, and watch videos online, you often do all this using a browser.   Chrome is designed to be fast in every possible way.  It’s quick to start up from your desktop, loads web pages in a snap, and runs complex web applications fast.  Chrome’s browser window is streamlined, clean and simple, with features designed for efficiency and ease of use.  It can help keep you safer and more secure on the web with built-in malware and phishing protection, auto updates to make sure the browser is up-to-date with the latest security updates, and more.  Google Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system designed by Google to work exclusively with web applications.  It’s aimed at users who spend most of their computer time on the Internet.  Reduce your IT headaches and save money on software.  What’s not to love?!

Hear W3 Consulting President, Ray Sidney-Smith extol the virtues of Chrome and Chrome OS in this free, one hour Webinar.

To register, go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/617061273 or call 703-778-1292 for more info.

EVENT: Every Word Matters in Business (Tues, 2/7/12)

Ever stare at a blank screen and not be able to write about your business? Do you struggle when you are under a deadline to write that business report or marketing piece? You are not alone! Many business owners know what they want to write, but they just can’t get it right!

Eliza Dolin - Ivy Quill Communications
February's Brown Bag Workshop Speaker, Eliza Dolin - Ivy Quill Communications

Come to our February Brown-Bag Lunch event and hear an upbeat, educational presentation about why good writing matters to all businesses – particularly small ones! These days, clear communication — whether in website copy, emails, memos, or newsletters — is more important than ever in achieving your business success.  Communications consultant Eliza Dolin of Ivy Quill Communications, LLC, will explain the reasons why, identify the causes of and cures for ineffective business writing, and offer tips that will help your business thrive.

Register today!

Join other small businesses at the monthly Brown-Bag lunch series of START, MANAGE, GROW your business sponsored by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership who are committed to helping small business thrive in Alexandria.

Free of charge, and held monthly in our boardroom located at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from noon until 1PM, business owners are invited to bring their lunch, network and learn nuggets of knowledge from experts.  A Q & A session will follow each presentation and we’ll get you back to your business promptly @ 1PM!

What Does the Alexandria SBDC Do – Our Services

 

Alexandria Small Business Development CenterAlexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is Alexandria’s economic development program totally focused on small businesses. It’s those small businesses that comprise the largest segment of Alexandria’s economy, but we know their potential is often hindered by lack of information or expertise. When Alexandria SBDC’s services help businesses solve problem, overcome obstacles, link to resources and find new opportunities, Alexandria’s economy is strengthened. With that in mind the City of Alexandria, the U.S. Small Business Administration and a number of private sector sponsors provide funding so that all Alexandria SBDC services are provided without cost.

The services of Alexandria SBDC fall into three categories to correspond to business needs at each stage – START, MANAGE and GROW.

START

  • Instruction on steps to follow to start a business
  • Individual guidance on concept feasibility, business plan preparation and financing
  • Introduction to lenders
  • Referrals to attorneys, accountants and resources for site selection
  • Help with City and State regulatory issues

MANAGE

  • Cash flow management (every business needs to monitor!)
  • Referrals to attorneys, accountants, human resources specialists and other experts to solve problems or improve operations
  • Strategic / expansion planning
  • Tax / regulatory planning
  • Marketing / networking strategies / social media
  • Business education programs on all aspects of management, operations, human resources, marketing, branding and specialized training for retailers, restaurateurs and government contractors
  • Research resources

GROW

  • Access to loans and investors
  • Business education programs in areas of government contracting, e-commerce, international trade, and issues of fast growth
  • Introduction to key resources for expansion planning, business valuation or selling a business
  • Networking / marketing opportunities / social media
  • Research resources

With many years of experience, Alexandria SBDC staff responds quickly and can recommend solutions to problems and link businesses to the most effective resources. Savvy entrepreneurs describe Alexandria SBDC as the number they keep handy for times when they run into a problem or need an objective sounding board. They also describe the SBDC’s monthly business education programs as opportunities to pick up “nuggets of information” and continually improve their approaches.

The key message is that Alexandria SBDC offers individual and confidential assistance without cost to City of Alexandria businesses and Alexandria residents with businesses elsewhere. Get more information at www.alexandriasbdc.org or 703-778-1292.

 

What He Learned From His Small Business Entrepreneur Dad

I came across this article, Entrepreneurship – What I Learned From my Dad,” (over at the Under30CEO blog) a couple of days ago and really thought it was worth sharing and commenting on for several reasons (even with its technical flaws). My primary interests in his story are how he recognize that starting a business is a very personal, family and creative process, and his remembrance, even from his  youth, of what his father-entrepreneur sacrificed to start this small business.

While I can’t speak for all small business entrepreneurs, I remember my first business and how  as the author describes it as “similar becoming a parent for the first time.” He was able to see his father in action, even worked alongside him. I didn’t have the opportunity to have a entrepreneurial dad (as I was raised for significant portion of my life by my beloved mom) and when my mom and step-dad started their first entrepreneurial endeavor it was after I had already been in business several years. I was not ready for the journey I set out on that first venture, but somehow by grace I was able to make it successful and I learned from my mistakes, good luck and perseverance. My point is to the entrepreneurial parents out there reading this, your children will benefit from you introducing them to the why’s and how’s of starting and managing your small business.

And, speaking of the business start-up phase, for any of you who have been through it, you know how much you must pour into the company in those early days. It’s not just money; neither only time. In my mind, it’s always analogous to a railroad track unfinished with a locomotive barreling down the path. You’re the one who needs to source the track, lay the track and make sure everything’s secure before that locomotive reaches, but in essence with a small business you’re never quite done laying that track. All that said, it’s an intensely joyful process once you learn the ropes, get better with your hammer (be that sourcing your products, or getting that additional certification to woo customers to your service) and the locomotive stops to pick up passengers (i.e., vacations and those “golden goose” client sales moments).

Photo courtesy of KellyB.

Facebook, Defined for Small Business

Definition of Facebook, the social networking service (c) Dictionary.com

Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t believe it with my own eyes. I was looking for a way to give context to Facebook and a good overview to start developing a Social Media business marketing strategy with Facebook as one aspect of it. So, I used Google’s “define” search function for “Facebook” and, lo and behold, Dictionary.com had an entry, and as you can see from above, it’s pretty accurate for consumers. The external social networking service founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 generally captures the people-spying-on-people mentality that pervades much of social networks. However, there’s more to the Social Media platform than meets the eye for businesses, and I’ll be blogging regularly about the many facets of the global social networking juggernaut. First, I’d like to just give a few definitions to cover some of the regular terms that define Facebook for small business.

PROFILES
The bottom line as to whether you use a Profile or Group for your business’ Facebook presence: never. I know that some will relent and give me all the reasons that their particular reasoning for using their Profile or a Group that they’ve set up for their business is better than setting up a Page. And, some will not that Facebook themselves made Pages as a second thought for businesses. My hope is that by explaining some key features of Pages and key disadvantages of Groups and Profiles, that you’ll go ahead and take the effort to launch your business’ Facebook Page in the not-too-distant future and then try to do away with your other Facebook presence as soon as practicable.

GROUPS
Facebook Groups are wonderful tools but for small communities within Facebook, such as committees, focus groups, boards, and groups of friends. Although it may be tempting to create a Group because you’ve heard of the few “advantages” over Pages, we highly dissuade you from thinking this is true. While you can send messages directly to members of groups, member engagement is higher in groups thanks to generally smaller size, and the discussion thread feature set, Groups are missing the core extensibility of Pages–Applications, analytics and Web coding functionality. Over time, Facebook engagement will be completely about the functionality of your Pages as much as they are about the content you offer.

PAGES
Facebook Pages are the de facto home for businesses and brands on Facebook. Every business should stake their claim to their Facebook Page (especially if you have a retail location). Facebook Ads and ad networks allow you to direct traffic to Facebook Pages, you can have unlimited fans following your Page, and users associate Pages with companies they like and trust. Every business’ marketing needs are different on Facebook, so research your target market well in a variety of Social Media before leaping in headfirst.

Facebook, no matter how you define it, is a commitment to Social Media that warrants close and careful contemplation. There’s no question that your target market is there; with 600 million users and counting, everyone’s target market in the United States is likely there. But, will they pay attention to your brand message while engaging on the platform? That’s the question you have to ask.

Still have questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll be happy to post video responses to my Vimeo account and post them here in the Comments for you.

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