Category Archives: Small business news

Equity Crowdfunding 101

Crowdfunding in general—and equity crowdfunding in particular—is set to become the primary way in which small businesses will finance their launch and growth in the twenty first century. Last week we gave a brief overview of the different types of crowdfunding on offer, but today, we’re going to delve deeper into the concept of equity crowdfunding.

In a nutshell, equity crowdfunding is a new method of seeking financing that allows companies of all sizes, including startups, to raise funds through secured online platforms, giving them access to large numbers of qualified investors. Equity crowdfunding gives companies (otherwise known as issuers) an attractive option for raising funds, and provides investors with the possibility of a handsome return on their investment.

What exactly is equity crowdfunding?

With equity crowdfunding, the investors become a shareholder in the company. An investor owns shares in a company that may provide the investor with benefits such as the right to vote at shareholder meetings, entitlement to dividends out of the company’s profits (if declared), and the investors get to share in the value in the company when shares are sold. Of course this means that they run the same risks that any investor faces when owning shares in a company, in that the company may fail or its value may decline.

Equity crowdfunding offers investors and companies great new options for buying into and funding new business ventures, as up until now there has really been no precedent for non-professional investors to invest in innovative ideas and potentially yield good returns. This makes the growing popularity of equity crowdfunding particularly exciting for busuness owners and investors alike.

Who can invest?

There can be two types of investors in equity crowdfunding—accredited investors and non-accredited investors.

  • Accredited investors are those investors deemed by the securities commissions to be high net worth individuals who would not be catastrophically impacted financially if an investment in a company seeking funds through equity crowdfunding fails. Each country has its own parameters, but roughly the top 3 to 5 percent of a country’s population would qualify as accredited investors. Typically both the issuers and the equity crowdfunding portal used must confirm the investors’ qualification with the local securities rules.

  • Non-Accredited investors are the “rest of us”—the rest of the country’s population that do not meet the requirements to be registered as an accredited investor.

What is an equity crowdfunding portal?

Equity crowdfunding portals bring companies and investors together in a secure cloud-computing platform. There are portals providing investment opportunities for accredited investors and non-accredited investors. Equity portals will also vary on size of offerings and vertical industry sectors. Issuers exchanges shares (or securities) for investors’ money via a selected equity crowdfunding portal. Currently in most North American jurisdictions only accredited investors can invest in equity crowdfunding—although there are a handful of exceptions to that rule.

Don’t miss the next instalment to our Introduction to Crowdfunding series, “How to Prepare for Equity Crowdfunding”.

 

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Small Biz Event of the Month: The Art of Small Business

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The Art ofthe group behind the The Art of Marketing, The Art of Sales, The Art of Management and The Art of Leadership eventsis trying its hand at a new segment this year: small business.

Attending any industry-related conferences, trade shows or seminars is always a worthwhile exercise for small business owners, but if you’re only planning on attending one more event before the year’s end, consider making it The Art of Small Business.

The new conference—which targets small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs— features seven internationally renowned bestselling authors and thought leaders, who will share an exciting blend of cutting edge thinking and real world experience on today’s most critical small business issues.

Whether you’re looking to gain some valuable insight into the areas of marketing, sales, technology or leadership, this event gives access to the very latest thinking directly from those who are setting the agenda.

Speakers at the inaugural Art Of Small Business conference include:

  • Michael E. Gerber – Small Business Guru & Author of the Mega-Bestseller E-Myth Revisited
  • Chris Guillebeau – New York Times Bestselling Author of The $100 Startup – The $100 Startup
  • John Jantsch – Small Business Expert & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Duct Tape Marketing, The Referral Engine & The Commitment Engine
  • Jonathan Fields – Award-Winning Author, Entrepreneur & Founder of The Good Life Project
  • Stephen Shapiro – Innovation Consultant & Bestselling Author, Personality Poker & Best Practices Are Stupid
  • Mitch Joel – President of Twist Image & Bestselling Author, Six Pixels of Separation & CTRL ALT Delete

Over 1200 like-minded business professionals are expected to attend The Art of Small Business at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Oct 21 2013, so why not be one of them?

This year, we’re partnering with The Art Of to share a preferred rate for The Art of Small Business conference with our small business community. Use promo code BIZLAUNCH26 and save up to $100 off your full-day pass.

We hope to see some of you there!

For those who can’t attend, we’ll also be live tweeting from the event using hash tag #TheArtOf.

Build A Business For Your Chance to Win $50,000

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The Shopify Build A Business competition is back, and this time it’s bigger and better than ever.

Here at BizLaunch, we love anything that encourages people to flex their entrepreneurial muscles and dive headfirst into the wonderful world of small business—and that’s exactly what Shopify are doing with the launch of their fourth annual Build A Business Competition.

Over the past three years, the contest has helped create over 15,000 new businesses that have sold over $60 million in products; so if you’ve ever thought about starting your own business or selling something online, now’s the time to take the plunge.

This year they’ve teamed up with The Huffington Post and some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world to help new and emerging stores grow their business, and for the 2013 competition, the nine stores that sell the most in their respective categories over a two-month period will each receive $50,000 in cash and a VIP trip to New York for an exclusive meeting with their competition mentor.

Here’s How It Works:

To participate in this year’s competition, all you have to do is come up with a product to sell, open a Shopify store and pick a category (which will determine your mentor). At the end of the competition, the nine stores that sell the most over any two month period during the competition will each win a $50,000 cash prize and a VIP trip to New York to meet with their mentor.

The competition runs from October 1st, 2013 to May 31st, 2014 and any Shopify store that was opened after June 1st, 2013 may join the competition*.

The Grand Prizes:

Each of the nine competition winners will receive:

  • $50,000 USD

  • A VIP trip to New York City to meet with their mentors

  • A complete Shopify POS package, with iPad, allowing you to sell to your customers in-person.

The Categories and Mentors:

Shopify are partnering with some of worlds smartest and most successful entrepreneurs for this years competition; people who’ve all built wildly successful businesses through hard work, dedication, and savvy marketing skills—and now they’re here to help you do the same.

Grand prize winners will get an exclusive meeting with the mentor from their category, and the investment, guidance and personal network that these entrepreneurs bring to the table would bring massive value to any business. In addition to mentoring the winners in person, all entrants will also get exclusive access to mentor advice and content through the Build A Business dashboard during the competition.

So what are you waiting for? You’re only four steps away from the opportunity of a lifetime.

To enter Shopify’s Build A Business competition, click here.

*The competition is open to residents of US (select states), Canada, UK, AUS, and NZ.

78% of Business Owners are Now Using Social Media – BizLaunch Research

Infographic - Social Media Habits of Small Business Owners

This past summer we surveyed over 200 business owners in North America to see how they are using social media for business. If you operate a B2B business and are curious to know how you can connect with other business owners on social media, keep reading!

How Business Owners Use Social Media

How many business owners do you know? Would you consider most of them to be social media savvy? According to a recent survey from BizLaunch, 78% of small business owners are now using social media as part of their overall marketing efforts.

Why Small Business Owners Use Social Media

According to the research, the top three reasons why business owners use social media is to build awareness, get more leads, and to interact with their customers. This makes sense when you think about how effective social media can be in each of these three areas. The top three sites most used by business owners are Facebook (69%), LinkedIn (50%), and Twitter (48%). It is surprising that more business owners aren’t using LinkedIn for business since it can be an effective tool for sales and networking.

Challenges that Small Business Owners Have on Social Media

According to the research, the top challenges that business owners face with regard to social media is using it properly, getting interaction from their followers, and finding content to post on their accounts. These challenges are common to all companies whether they are big or small and we cover a few tips later on in this post about how to overcome some of these frustrating problems.

How Often Small Business Owners are Using Social Media

49% of survey respondents reported to using social media at least once a day or more, and 52% said that they normally check their social media accounts before 12 pm. The survey also asked business owners what causes them to start or stop following a particular brand on social media. The number one reason that small business owners follow a brand on social media is because the company provides them with interesting information. The number one reason they stop following a brand is because the content posted is not relevant to them.

Why Small Business Owners Want Good Content

This goes to show that small business owners want good content. They want to better their current situation in some way, so by providing educational tools, videos, or articles you can help them grow. This type of small business content marketing builds trust with your followers who will then think of you the next time they need a product that you are selling.

A Few Best Practices for Marketing to Small Business Owners on Social Media

– Choose a few accounts that your customers are on and do a great job of posting and interacting with customers on those sites.
– Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
– Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time post content about your industry and 20% of the time post about your products/services to get more interaction from your followers. You should also share photos as these seem to get more interaction from followers on Facebook.
– Set up a few Google Alerts for your industry and share the links that are making news in your particular area of business.
– You can also re-purpose content that you already have from whitepapers, research or presentations in new ways. Infographics like the one in this post are a great way to share top 10 lists, research, or just about anything.

To see more results from this research you can download the eBook called, “Best Practices for Reaching Business Owners on Social Media,” or visit Bizlaunch.com for more information.

Nominated for the Small Business Influencer Awards!

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BizLaunch is thrilled to have received two nominations for the Small Business Influencer Awards. Produced by Small Business Trends and Small Biz Technology and brought to you by Blackberry, the Small Business Influencer Awards honour companies, organizations, apps and people who have made a significant impact on the North American small business market.

“We are excited to see the small business market getting the support it deserves,” says Andrew Patricio, Founder of BizLaunch. “Thank you to Susan Payton of Egg Marketing & Communications for nominating us!”

In her nomination Susan writes, “BizLaunch helps companies like VISA, Staples, Deluxe, Bell and Purolator connect with small business owners by developing seminars, webinars and educational content.” She goes on to say that BizLaunch “Helps small businesses succeed. By providing useful and relevant resources at no cost, the brand is a trusted source of information.”

Most recently, BizLaunch has been working with ATB Financial, the SBA in the Caribbean and the Summer Company Program to provide a variety of resources for entrepreneurs.

Andrew Patricio, also received a personal nomination for his contributions to the small business industry. As an internationally recognized small business expert Andrew has travelled the world training small business owners. He also helps larger corporations understand how they can connect with small business owners in meaningful ways.

If you know someone who should be nominated for a Small Business Influencer Award please visit http://influencers.smallbiztrends.com/ . The nomination period closes July 15, 2012. If you believe that BizLaunch and/or Andrew Patricio should win, stay tuned to find out how you can vote!

Getting PAYD with Moneris

Let’s face it – we love our smartphones. Whether we use them for entertainment, navigation or staying connected to friends and family, our obsession with mobile phones is here to stay. Not only are our phones great for personal use, but increasingly we are using them for business as well.

M-commerce – otherwise known as mobile payments or mobile money offers people the ability to pay and accept payments through their phones. M-commerce is not an overly new concept as for years people have been purchasing ring-tones, songs, and games through these devices. Recently a number of new merchants have entered this area, but many smaller businesses are beginning to cash in on this trend as well.

As a result, the m-commerce industry has experienced exponential growth over the past few years. Mobile payment transactions totalled $240 billion in 2011 according to a report conducted by Juniper Research, and they project that the market could grow to $670 billion by 2015. Another study conducted by Group SJR and Liz Claiborne Inc. found that 47% of smartphone owners and 56% of tablet owners who have already purchased on their mobile devices, plan to purchase more products in the near future. In my opinion, small businesses should accept mobile payments not only because the industry is growing at a rapid rate, but also because it allows them to increase their profit, expand their customer base, and create new opportunities to sell and market their products.

Though there are countless benefits of using mobile payments, there are many small business owners who still do not accept debit or credit payments in their business at all. Artists, photographers and tutors are among this group of entrepreneurs who still rely on cash as their primary method of payment. According to Moneris – Canada’s largest credit and debit card processor – there are potentially over 1 million of these small businesses in Canada alone.

Not accepting credit or debit has placed these businesses at a disadvantage in the past, however a new service from Moneris is hoping to change that. PAYD allows small business owners to capture more sales by allowing them to accept credit card payments through their smartphone or tablet. What makes the service unique is that the card reader can be plugged into the audio port of most Apple, Google and RIM devices. The mobile card reader allows the small business owner to swipe the customer’s card for a fast and secure payment.

The service will be made available later this month, but If you’re interested to learn more please visit https://getpayd.com.

Content Marketing is On the Rise for B2B

Only a few years ago, B2B marketers were using tools like print advertising to get the attention of customers. Now it seems that content marketing is rapidly becoming the go-to tool for the B2B set. According to a survey by HiveFire, 82% of B2B marketers are now using content marketing. That’s substantial news.

Because so many marketers are faced with the challenge of getting new leads on a shrinking budget, content marketing plays in perfectly as a solution. According to the survey results, content marketing takes up less than 30% of half of the budgets of those surveyed.

What Content Marketing Does

The respondents said that their goals in using content marketing were to engage customers and prospects (82%) and drive sales (55%). Content plays perfectly into these goals: by providing useful information, you’re building trust with potential customers, thereby engaging them. As they move down the sales funnel, you’re the company they consider first when shopping for the services or products you sell.

Given that I’m such a fan of content marketing, I’m pleased to see the results starting to skew in favor of it. I’m not talking to a brick wall as much when it comes to explaining why creating content makes you an expert and builds trust. Brands are starting to get it. And in B2B, it’s even more important, because those sales are completely based on trust.

Get HiveFire’s B2B Marketing Trends 2011 Survey Report here.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s written two books: 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and has blogged for several sites, including The Marketing Eggspert Blog, as well as Mashable, Small Business Trends, FutureSimple, BizLaunch and Lead411. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.