Tag Archives: small business

What it Takes to Make Your Small Business Real

So you’ve decided to start your own business. Congratulations! Now, what? Making the decision to venture off on your own is just the first step in a long, hopefully, life-long venture. So start off with what it takes to make your small business real.

What it Takes to Make Your Small Business Real Continue reading

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Resources for Every Size of Small Business

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sizes of small businesses. Up until recently I — and maybe you too — lumped them all together. But the truth is: not all small businesses are created equal.

Young woman in flower shop with rose arrangement

What Type of Small Business Do YOU Run?

There are those I like to call micropreneurs. We are the lifeblood of our businesses, and we probably don’t have very many, if any, employees. We have very different needs than businesses with offices and departments, but a business with fewer than 500 employees still qualifies as a small one. Continue reading

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”.

 

Crowdfunding: An Introduction

By Stefanie Neyland with research by Oscar Jofre

You may have heard a lot about crowdfunding recently, and you may be wondering what it’s all about. If you’re not quite sure exactly what it is, have no fear—you’re not alone. The truth is that crowdfunding is a relatively new concept, and many entrepreneurs are only just beginning to learn about it and how it can be leveraged to start or grow their business venture.

So what is crowdfunding? On its most basic level, it’s the aggregation of small amounts of capital from a large group of people, usually via the Internet, in order to fund a business, project or organization. There are four main types of crowdfunding:

Equity-based crowdfunding

Equity crowdfunding is considered by most to be the holy grail of the crowdfunding phenomenon that’s sweeping the globe. For the past 24 months there has been a frenzy of tweets, blogs, articles, and news reports about how entrepreneurs and small businesses can access capital via equity crowdfunding. Investors receive a stake (usually common or preferred shares or units) in the company (the issuer), with the idea being that the investor is either looking to make a return from dividends or capital gains on the growth in value of their stake in the company. In a nutshell, it’s a 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.

Donation-based crowdfunding

With donation-based crowdfunding, contributions go towards a charitable cause. For example, you may pay for a charity in a poverty stricken area to receive much-needed medication for its inhabitants. In donation-based crowdfunding, funds are collected from a community for a publicly disclosed initiative but there is no financial return to the people putting money in. The return for contributors is usually the satisfaction that comes with helping others in need.

Lending-based crowdfunding

With this type of crowdfunding, investors are repaid for their investment in a business over a period of time and receives a stipulated return (interest) for the use of their money.

Reward-based crowdfunding

With reward-based crowdfunding, contributors receive a predefined product or service in return for their funds provided to the company or individual. A contributor advances funds with the promise of receiving a prescribed reward at a later date (i.e., paying now for the development of a new smartphone and receiving the phone after it is developed, manufactured, tested and shipped).

Whether it’s in Canada, Brazil, Chile, China, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Israel, Russia, Sweden the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands or the United States, Equity Crowdfunding is changing the global landscape to give everyone—the ‘crowd’—an opportunity to invest and contribute in a variety of initiatives.

To learn more about how crowdfunding—and more specifically, equity crowdfunding—could help you start or grow your business, download our free eBook, ‘Equity Crowdfunding 101’ via the Free Tools section of the BizLaunch website.

 

10 Social Media Best Practices

Social Media

Marketing your business takes time. Luckily with the ever-growing popularity of social media, you can now do a lot of your marketing online. But social media can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start, or if you don’t have a social media strategy in place. Follow these 10 best practices to create a strong social media following.

1. Determine your strategy

A social media strategy is more than just having a Facebook account. You need to think about what you want to achieve by using social media. Is it to get more interaction from your customers, or is it to raise awareness for your products?

2. Pick your networks

Even though it may be tempting to join every social network, you’ll  achieve better results if you stick to one or two sites that your customers use. This will also prevent you from spreading yourself too thin.

3. Stay true to your brand

Stay consistent to your brand’s personality. Your brand’s personality should come out in your social media posts. Try to stick to topics that your customers will care about, and don’t shy away from starting a discussion. Hot topics will get more interaction than safe topics.

4. Don’t push sales

Many businesses only post about themselves, and then they wonder why no one interacts or follows them online. Follow the 70/30 rule where 70% of the content is about your industry and 30% is about your products/services.

5. Provide good content

Using content such as photos, videos, links and blog posts in your social media can really help you build trust with your customers. Also, photos get more ‘air time’ in Facebook news feeds, so post photos as often as you can.

6. Use a call to action

Tell people what to do.  Ask them to like your updates, fill in the blank, or come up with the best caption for your photo. Using a call to action helps get more people interacting with your posts.

7. Update regularly

Update your accounts at least a few times per day and make sure that you respond to each and every comment on your profile. It’s also helpful to develop a schedule of your weekly posts to keep organized. Use a social media aggregator (see number 8) so you don’t fall silent on the weekends.

8. Use a social media aggregator

With Hootsuite, you can link up to five social media networks that can all be viewed on one page. This saves you time switching between various accounts and also allows you to schedule posts ahead of time.

9. Don’t try to control everything

Another reason that businesses are scared of social media is that they don’t want to receive negative feedback. If customers post negative feedback about your brand on social media, take it as an opportunity to turn the situation into a positive experience.

10. Be patient

Don’t expect millions of followers right away and never buy likes. Remember that making strong connections with fewer followers is better than having no connection with many. Building a strong following takes time.

To learn more about creating a strong social media presence, you can sign up for next Tuesday’s free webinar brought to you by BizLaunch and the social media experts at Deluxe Corporation, ‘Social Media Basics’ at 1pm Eastern.

 

Business Payments Can Be Complicated – But They Don’t Need to Be

Pay

The payments process is one of the most vital functions of your day-to-day business operations, having a direct link to your cash flow activity.  Which is why an occasional review of the process to ensure payments are being made and received as efficiently as possible is always a prudent step.

It’s also a good idea to consider other options that could potentially save you time and money. When you look around at how other businesses do things, you’ll quickly recognize there are a number of differences that exist in the way bills are paid.

This is particularly true when comparing how consumers and businesses make payments. For example, although ePayments – which are electronic payments made over the Internet ­– are now used widely by consumers, the options available for businesses to take advantage of this technology have been, until recently, quite limited.

It’s no surprise then that the transaction a consumer makes with a business is much different than the transaction one business makes with another.

As a business owner, those differences are important. Your payments process costs you time and money. You try to make it as simple and convenient as possible for your customer to pay you. Why isn’t that convenience available when you pay your own bills?

The good news is that, although B2B payments are considerably more complicated than consumer transactions, you are now able simplify that process.

Before discussing how, let’s first look at a few of the differences between consumer and B2B payments.

  • Single/Many: Consumers pay one bill at a time; Businesses pay multiple invoices at once.
  • Amount paid: Consumers usually pay in full; Businesses often make partial payments, deducting from the invoice when ordering, shipping, pricing or other issues arise.
  • Remittance: Consumers don’t need to explain what they are paying for; Businesses provide an explanation with the check to tell the seller what the funds are for.

The variety and complexity of business payments has so far made it difficult for businesses to take full advantage of the benefits that ePayments routinely offer consumers. While many options for ePayments have now emerged, none of them offered a complete solution for business.

But that’s changing.

There’s a new option on the market–Deluxe® eChecks powered by VerifyValidTM–which offers businesses a quick, convenient and secure way to make payments. It allows remittance information to be included and doesn’t require a merchant account, additional software or investments in new technology.

Deluxe eChecks allows businesses to make payments from anywhere, at any time, offering more control and serving as a great first step into the world of ePayments. Ultimately, it’s a tool that will help your business operate more easily and efficiently, just like the consumer-payment world.

To learn more about ePayments and how they could benefit your business, don’t miss tomorrow’s webinar, ‘eChecks: The New Way to Pay Your Business Bills‘ at 1pm Eastern.

See you there!

Spring Clean Your Office and Boost Your Productivity

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By Jessica Filigno,  Home and Office Organization Expert and Founder of Jessie’s Interiors

It’s that time of year again! Spring gives us another opportunity to start fresh and reclaim our spaces. Office organization can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, spaces for you to focus on. Since office clutter has a direct impact on how effectively you work, it’s important to spend some time creating a system that works for you—but don’t be overwhelmed! Set aside a couple of hours every week to tackle one task at a time and you will immediately feel more focused and calm in your own space. Concentrate on clearing off your desk by keeping only what you really need in eyesight. Try to tackle that paper clutter by creating systems that work for you when you need them; focus on ease of accessibility and giving every action a flow. When spring cleaning your office, think about your daily tasks and organize around them.

For more inspiration, follow these tips to help tackle your office organization.

1. Digitize what you can

Digitizing paper, photos or any loose material in your office will help to keep your desktop clutter-free and organized. Make sure you organize your online folders accordingly so you know where the documents are when you need them.

2. Create an ‘in and out’ mail system—and follow it

Go through your ‘in and out’ mail system once a week to ensure nothing is overlooked. This system can include bills, receipts, report cards, etc.

3. Organize your email and computer files

Organize your email and computer files into general folders. Check online to see how you can customize your email to make it easier for you to retrieve the information you need, when you need it. If you receive a lot of unwanted mail, take the time to unsubscribe from any additional content. This simple step can save you a ton of time searching through emails and will help you gain control of your inbox.

4. Clean off your desktop

In order to keep your desktop clutter-free, only have the items you use on a daily basis within arms reach. Try going vertically, using shelving systems, to store items larger items you may need. Categorize your items into separate boxes or file folders—just remember to label everything!

5. File important papers

Filing important papers right away clears not only your desktop, but also your mind. Insurance paperwork, birth certificates and passports should always be stored somewhere safe and out of a child’s reach. If you need a document, take the time to put it back right away.

6. Reclaim your command centre

A quick trip to Staples is all you need to get your command center back up and running. Start with a sturdy three ring binder then add tabbed dividers as needed, labeling accordingly. You can also opt for labeled portfolios to help store emergency contact numbers, takeout menus, gift certificates or postcards.

7. Tame those cables

Those unruly cables, cords and wires seem to always be a visual eyesore in the office. Luckily, there are a ton of products on the market to help you tame your cables and increase your desk space.

8. Look up!

One of the best ways to maximize storage in a small place is to think vertically. Wall shelving is a compact storage system that is an effective way to save valuable floor space, and can also serve as a focal point in your office. Be creative with the colors and sizes and add items such as candles, frames or keepsakes to help personalize your space.

9. Restock items

Now’s the time to restock the products you need and organize them accordingly. Remember to keep supplies and often-used items stored separately. This keeps less frequently used items from taking up valuable desk space.

10. Evaluate your lighting

Whether you work in a home office or cubicle, the quality of lighting in your workspace can make a big impact on your productivity. Ensure your desktop is well lit since you may be reading for several hours at a time. But remember: nothing is better than opening up your windows after a long, cold winter!

About Jessica:



Jessica Filigno—a Toronto-based professional home and office organizer—is an active member of theProfessional Organizers in Canada (POC) and specializes in residential organization, helping to eliminate clutter in her clients’ homes. To find out more, visit Jessie’s Interiors.