Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Small Business Credit Card Risk..

Knowing the risks and rewards associated with a particular credit card is important to you and your company.

Although consumer and business cards offer different protection, they both can affect the finances of the card holder and the company. To find out more about small business credit cards, and how to determine their worth, listen to this video.

Please note that this video is for information purposes and not in any form a recommendation by the SBDC.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Whitton Best Practices Speaker Series For Small Businesses

Part I:  Immigration Laws, the Hiring Process, and State Audits Presented ByJim Knight, SC Dept. Of Labor     

Part II:  Immigration Laws on a National Level Presented ByLarry Needle, P.A. March 8, 9 a.m. - noon

Whitton Auditorium - Vivian M. Carroll Hall,Winthrop UniversityCollege of Business Administration 

For reservations, contact Page Bowden, Director of External RelationsWinthrop University,
803/323-2505 or email bowdenp@winthrop.edu

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's a good time to be in a tourist-related business in South Carolina.

While the economy is slowly healing itself, the tourist industry is apparently enjoying a little faster growth rate than one would expect. Can your business be tweaked to become a "destination" for local or vacation tourists?

Click bellow for more information.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 28th: Finding Small Business Funding with Benetrends

Click to read registration information for this FREE webinar being co-sponsored by America's Small Business Development Centers. They'll be talking about non-traditional ways to fund a small business. You may or may not be able to take advantage of some of these ideas, but it can't hurt to listen!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pinterest - New Social Media?

Pinterest is the latest social media network since Google+. As an entrepreneur you might be wondering two things: What is it, and how can I use it to help my business grow? Honestly, no one knows how this is going to go. There’s specul...ation in this video that it may not do much for your business …. That it’s essentially a “toy” for little old ladies in the Midwest who are scrapbooking, and that it serves no purpose to business.

BUT, we’ve had our Pinterest page up for only 2 weeks, have very little on it right now, and already have followers. I would say the jury’s still out on this one. If you’re an artist for example, and you post an image or two of your work, and then an image that advertises your art/sculpture/poetry or whatever web site, will you find visitors coming from Pinterest? What have you to lose in giving it a try?

"Fear less, hope more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Hate less, love more; And all good things are yours."- Swedish Proverb

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't forget about out workshop today. Come see us to learn more on Financial/Accounting Principles for Small Business

Financial & accounting principles, with focus on discussion, review and analysis of an Excel workbook which presents financial projections (start-up assumptions, cash flow, P&L and Balance Sheet) of a fictitious enterprise. Entrepreneurs will get an understanding of how good financial and accounting records are kept. Also offering existing businesses an opportunity to review principles they may have forgotten or never implemented

Registration checks should be made out to Winthrop Regional SBDC and mailed prior to August 12th. Those registering at the door should bring cash only. Email receipts will be provided. For further information, call 803 323-2283 Mon-Thurs, 8:30am – 5pm, Friday, 8am – 11:30 am

Driving directions: Coming from out of town, driving from Interstate 77, take 82B, the Cherry Road exit. Travel toward Rock Hill 3.7 miles to Oakland Ave. Turn left onto Oakland Ave.,then right at the 1st intersection, Eden Terr. (Main Campus Entrance). At yield sign, bear right. The Thurmond Building is the 2nd building on the right. Enter through any entrance and take elevator to the 4th floor.

Monday, February 20, 2012

SBA Offers “FREE” Webinar Series Promoting Entrepreneurship Education and Small Business Growth

. . . Recognizes 6th Annual National Entrepreneurship Week . . . February 18-25, 2012

WHAT: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will host a series of webinars in recognition of the sixth annual National Entrepreneurship Week. The emphasis will be on financial empowerment and building the entrepreneurship skills of the next generation of small business owners, using business basics, social networking and business strategizing.

WHEN: February 21-24, 2012, daily at 3:00 p.m. (ET)

WHO: Webinar topics and presenters are

  • Felipe Wright, CEO                                                                                                                     Intelligent Information Technology Solutions

Topic: Entrepreneurship Empowers Everyone
Tuesday, February 21 at 3:00 p.m.

  • Joseph Clarke, Chapter Chair                                                                                      Washington, D.C. SCORE
Topic: The Things an Entrepreneur Needs to Know
Wednesday, February 22 at 3:00 p.m.

  • Melanie Lamar-Hancock, President
Right at Home, Washington, D.C.

Topic: Building Your Team
Thursday, February 23 at 3:00 p.m.

  • Jennifer Kushell, Founder and CEO,  YSN.com
Topic: Entrepreneurship & Networking
Friday, February 24 at 3:00 p.m.

HOW: Audio Conference Login Instructions

1. Dial the AT&T Connect Teleconference Toll-Free Number – 1-888-858-2144

2. Enter your AT&T Access Code – 4259370 (press the # key)

Web Conference Login Instructions

1. Login at www.connectmeeting.att.com
2. Enter “Meeting Number” 1-888-858-2144
3. Enter “Access Code” 4259370
4. Enter “Email Address, First and Last name”
5. Click Submit
6. Click Participant
7. Click Participant Application (Recommended)
8. Click “Enter” Event
9. Click Dial-In/Already Connected by Phone
(Close the Telephone Connection Instructions pop-up box)

System Requirements:

*To set up the AT&T Connect Participant application, a user's PC must run either Windows 2000, Windows XP (SP1, SP2, SP3 are supported), or Vista with either Internet Explorer 6.0 (or higher) supported. AT&T Connect does support the Mozilla or Firefox browser.

*Separate telephone line is needed for the audio portion

Note: For assistance with AT&T Connect Web Conference Service, contact AT&T Connect Customer Care at 1-888-796-6118.

National Entrepreneurship Week (February 18-25, 2012) hosted by the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education celebrates the heritage of entrepreneurship in America and of entrepreneurship education for the next generation. For details on this and other events, visit the National Entrepreneurship Week Website at http://www.entre-week.org/.

Social media...

"In order to understand what you want to accomplish with social media, you first have to understand what's possible." -Jason Falls social media consultant. - entrepreneur.com  

Listen to what this social media consultant says about social media and the seven business goals that he suggests to identify before getting started. -

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Small Business Owners on how web presence is working for them!

There are many ways to market your business. Here are what local businesses are using and going to market theirs.

 “There used to be this thing called the Yellow Pages, and if you had the right spot and the right-sized ad, you’d get calls. But if you’re not online today, no matter how big or small your business is, you’re likely going to get hurt.” - Ely Dahan

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day.

You appreciate your clients each and every day, right? But do your clients know how much you care? On this Valentine's Day, take a few minutes to show them just how much you value their support and appreciate their business.

Here are five inexpensive ways to get you started.

#1. Congratulate your clients on milestone events.
#2. Keep in touch with your clients on a regular basis.
#3. Send business anniversary cards to celebrate the day you and your client started working together.
#4. Use your detective skills to discover your clients' hobbies and interests.
#5. Include your client in nonbusiness activities.

To read more on these tips click on the following link http://success.yourway.net/5-ways-to-show-your-clients-you-care-2/

Monday, February 13, 2012

In Greenville, SC? Interested in a technology business?

You are invited to join the GSA Technology Council, Tech After Five and The Clemson Small Business Development Center for an interactive workshop designed to supply the information ...you need before taking the plunge of starting a tech business.
We'll have the workshop in the offices of The Next Big Thing, a Greenville based accelerator program designed to create the businesses of tomorrow in downtown Greenville.
Click below to register -- cost is $39 per person.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Don't miss out on these opportunities

Opportunities 2012, Asheville, March 19   http://www.sbtdc.org/events/opportunities 

2012 Shaw Air Force Base Small Business Opportunity Forum, Sumter, May 24(Contact shbellows@sc.edu  for registration information)

Veteran Entrepreneur Training Symposium (VETS2012), Reno NV, June 11-14 http://veterantrainingsymposium.com/
SC Clean Energy & Jobs Forum 2012, Columbia, Feb. 23 http://sccleanenergyandjobs.eventbrite.com/

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So you have your business strategy in place...

How do you begin to charge for your product or service?! 

Set up your pricing strategy; use these questions as guidelines:
  • What is your market position relative to the competition?
  • Does repeat business matter?
  • Do you want to offer free or discounted stuff?
  • When you have a set of products, there are people who are very price sensitive, and there are people who don't care about price. How do you address that situation for maximum benefit?

To learn and to read more on this subject click here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winthrop Region SBDC Director, Larry Stevens, is on his way to Columbia today to participate in York County Day, and be the eyes and ears of our SBDC's small business clients.

The afternoon program will include a variety of speakers, including members of the York County Legislative Delegation. This event allows local business leaders the opportunity to learn more about current issues affecting business in York County and the state.

The event culminates with the traditional legislative reception at 6 p.m. honoring all members of the South Carolina General Assembly. Constitutional officers also have been invited to attend.
One of the objectives of this event is to formally present the Council of Chambers’ Legislative Agenda for 2012. The York County Regional Chamber along with the Greater Clover, Greater York, Lake Wylie chambers, makes up the Council of Chambers of Commerce.

For more than 20 years, the business community through the chambers have come together to speak as one to state legislators on key legislative issues facing York County . All four chambers work closely together to review and analyze pending legislation that is likely to come before the General Assembly.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"It's one thing if a brand tells you they're great, but it's much better when another customer tells you so."- Schaefer

Don't miss this amazing opportunity to have your start up questions answered!

Advice and Tips on Starting a Business Offered
In SBA’s February Web Chat
Thursday, February 16, 2012, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., ET

Advisory  Date:  February 6, 2012
Contact:  Cecelia Taylor (202) 401-3059
Advisory Number: MA12-03
Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s February web chat will offer business start-up advice for entrepreneurs.  If you are considering starting a business in 2012, SBA can be valuable resource to help you find a mentor, improve your business skills and get training to help boost your ideas.

WHO:    Janice Washington, state director of the Arizona Small Business Development Center Network, will host the February web chat on “New Year, New Business: How to Start it Right.”  An experienced business consultant and former business owner, Washington will answer questions about the early steps to take when starting a business, and the tools and resources that can help to get a small business idea off the ground.

WHAT:   SBA’s web chat series provides small business owners with an opportunity to discuss relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs.  Chat participants have direct, real-time access to the web chats via questions they submit online in advance, and during the live session.  Participants will gain valuable information on how to participate in the program to gain increased access to government contracting opportunities.

WHEN:   February 16, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Washington will answer questions for one hour.

HOW:    Participants can join the live web chat, and also post questions before the February 16th chat, by going online to www.sba.gov, and click on the web chat event under What’s New.

To review archives of past web chats, visit online at http://www.sba.gov/content/monthly-web-chat.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What to Know and Do Before Applying for a Loan for Your Business

Going after a loan? These are the six essential areas a lending institution will consider

Your Personal Character
The very first thing a loan officer looks for when reviewing a business proposal is some indication of how trustworthy you are. If your background demonstrates a lack of integrity, your request will not be considered, even if it the best business idea there is. They want to know a lot about you personally; who you are, how long you’ve been in business (if at all), and your history of meeting your financial obligations. Your credit history will be checked to see how you’ve handled previous debts. Why? Because if you are a small business, in the eyes of the lending party you ARE the business, and how you’ve handling things in the past is a good indicator of how you’ll handle them in the future.

What To Do:
Know your credit report. Get a copy well before your loan request is made, and if it is less than perfect (which most are) fix or resolve any mistakes in the report. If you have a low score because of a bad payment history or too much debt (I have been told by some in the banking industry that credit card balances should not exceed anywhere from 5-15% of your gross income), clean it up before applying. It takes time to do this, so begin this task well in advance.

Make sure you have some good personal references. It does make a difference if somebody they may know and respect will vouch for you.

If you have some gaps in your work history or issues in your background be prepared to explain, in detail, the reason(s) for these “black marks”. Honesty is the best policy! Be truthful, but you don’t necessarily have to be blunt or negative.

Your Ability to Actually Run the Business
An old saying goes “just because you can bake bread does not mean you can run a bakery”. The lending institution needs to be sure that you or the person making the business decisions knows what they are doing. Bad management is the primary reason why most new businesses don’t make it more than 3 years, and your lender is not in business to lose money on bad investments.

Many times the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s) you have may be something you can apply to the new company, but are not necessarily something you learned in your new company’s area of business. For example, you may have worked as a manager in a very successful retail clothing store, but you want to open a dry goods store. You basically understand what it’s going to take to work in a retail environment, but will have somewhat of a learning curve when it comes to the dry goods business. The skills you can bring with you are called transferrable skills and are important, so let the lending institution know you have them.

What To Do:
Look at your resume and see how much of your background is transferrable to your new business. If you do not have adequate experience, it may be a good thing to go to work for someone who does essentially what you hope to do yourself and learn the ropes.

The lending institution will want to see a brief bio/resume on you and anyone in a key position in your new company, to see that those in decision making roles know what they are doing. Have a brief bio/resume prepared for all those persons involved with you.

If you do not have the necessary KSA’s to run this new business, you may want to seriously consider hiring someone with more experience to run it for you – at least for the interim – until you are capable. This will probably make a big difference in the chances of you have of getting the funds.

Can You Pay Me Back?
The biggest question in the lending institution’s mind, if in their estimation you seem to be a credible, trustworthy, knowledgeable candidate, is if you can pay back the money they would be lending you. Lenders are conservative by nature, and the information you are providing them in your business proposal HAS to be objective, accurate, believable and concise. The conclusions they have to reach after reading the proposal should be that it is a solid idea based on credible information. While there are no guarantees, their exposure to risk seems to be palatable.

Keep in mind that the person you are talking to about the loan did not go into their field because they wanted to sell, but in essence what you are asking them to do is sell your idea to the loan committee. They have to feel comfortable with the idea and with you as well. If they present your request to the committee and it is based on bad or inadequate information, not only will you not meet you obligation to repay but you quite possibly have damaged the loan officer’s reputation and maybe even his/her job.

What To Do:
Be prepared to demonstrate several things in your plan; how you can make your loan payments, at what point are you estimating you will show a positive cash flow and eventually profit (they are not the same thing!), and how big a profit you expect to see, when, and will it be sustainable.

Create a minimum of a 2 year projected cash flow – which if the truth be known – is the foundation for generating your business proposal. This cash flow projection is part of your overall “pro forma” and is the second thing a lending officer will review, after your Executive Summary. Most, if not all, lending institutions require this and some need 3 years’ projections, all based on monthly income and expenses. Every figure you put in the cash flow has to have some sort of “reasonable assumption” backing up the reason you chose to use that number to represent the income or outgo of money. The litmus test is that if you use a figure, you should be able to generate some sort of documentation as to why the figure you used is accurate. And example would be the power bill – did you just guess or actually call the power company to find out the true costs?

Key point – Be sure your numbers show “seasonality” of both sales and expenses. I know of very few companies that have the same costs or income every month for everything. Also, do not round your number off to the nearest $50. Make them accurate to the dollar if possible, and be able to “prove” your number is accurate. Think about it – when is the last time you got a phone bill for exactly $100 every month? Do you think a loan officer doesn’t notice things like that? Just that simple change can make a huge difference in your chances of success.

Key Point – If you are a new business it may be best to begin the forecasting process by determining your breakeven point on the cash flow, then go on to show if this number is realistic and sustainable. What you are trying to generate is a feel for how much business you HAVE to do to cover your costs, then figure out how much more than that you expect to do. Keep it realistic. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than mildly disappointed when projecting sales figure, and most business owners tend to be pretty optimistic when it comes to sales. Also, determining your breakeven will give you a firm grasp as to how the business is doing at any given point. (ie., I have to sell 40 units a week to cover my costs for the month).

Your Business Environment
What your business is going to offer and where it is going to offer it is a big part of the decision making process of a lending institution. Questions like “who will be our competitors?” and “where are they located?” may be a couple of the questions you need to be prepared to answer. Bigger questions like the overall state of the general economy may play a role, as well as “why will your product/service be better than what’s already out there?” might be raised.

What To Do:
When thinking about your business, consider a couple of things; If there are no direct competitors in your immediate geographic area, is it because 1) there is not enough demand to support the business in the region, 2) what you plan to offer can be gotten easily and more cheaply online, or 3) nobody thought of it? If you are planning an online business you have to keep in mind that your marketplace is international; what may seem to be good for you in your geographic area may not be what is wanted or needed elsewhere. Do you homework on determining what else is available online that meets the needs you hope to fulfill.

Is your business idea one that is highly dependent on seasonal activity or drastically affected by the overall economy? Areas such as tourist-based industries, gift items, sports related, and other non-essentials can be harder to get a loan for than other businesses that deal with more basic products and services.

Your competition is not limited to just those who do what you do. If your product or service is one that would be purchased with disposable income (money spent for non-essential items), your competition could be virtually anything that someone could spend their money on to have fun, feel better about themselves, get something they really don’t need but would like to have, etc. For example, if you have $50 in your pocket and you were going to spend it on something that was not essential, what would or could you spend it on? A nice meal? A trip to the mall? Get your nails done? Download some music? Buy a subscription to a magazine? All these things could be considered indirect competition for your business.

One other thing to consider; is your direct completion going to be other small businesses or Wal-Mart? It does make a difference….. Research your competition objectively.

Collateral and Loan Guarantees
While lending institutions are looking primarily at your business’s ability to repay what you owe them, they do want to have some sort of assurance that if the business goes belly up there is a way for them to recoup the potential loss from the bad loan. What they would like to see is something that is easily converted into cash, and is equal in value (or more) that what you’re requesting.

And even if you do get a loan, it will not be approved for 100% of what you need; historically you will have to generate anywhere from 10 to 30% of the capital from elsewhere, and not loans from other creditors. The only real loan that makes sense to use is a second mortgage on a house, but unless you have a lot of equity in the house it will lessen the chances of getting the loan you’re applying for – especially if you are planning on using the house as collateral for the loan you’re asking for from them.

Some things that are not considered to be too good for collateral are: Rolling stock – cars, trucks, etc. Inventory – don’t expect much in the form of value here. Maybe 25% of what it cost you. Restaurant equipment In some cases, undeveloped land

It is not an unusual practice to require that all principle owners of the business cosign and/or provide some sort of personal guarantee for the loan; meaning they are responsible for repayment if your business fails. This really accomplishes two goals – it assures the bank of recourse if the business is not successful, and it demonstrates that there is a commitment from the participants in the business venture to make it work.

What To Do:
Before applying for a loan, make sure everyone involved is aware of the need for their potential guarantee on the loan repayment. They will probably have to go through the credit check by the lender as well. If you’re planning on using something that can be appraised for its value (like a house), have a recent appraisal available for review by the loan officer. Be able to document your costs thus far in the business to show you have invested the necessary amount out of your pocket to cover the equity you need to have to secure the loan. There’s nothing wrong in asking the loan officer what they would consider viable for use as collateral.

Conditions and/or Terms of the Loan
Significant issues that may affect our application for a loan include: How much money do you want to borrow? What are you going to use it for? How long do you want to take to pay it back?

When a lending institution gets a request for a loan, what the loan is going to be used for is crucial to their decision making process. It is in your best interest to spell out where the money is going to be used, and how the loan is going to increase your income over and above the cost of the loan repayment.

If you are starting a business, be prepared to include at least 90 days of operating expense in the loan request; you are not going to be running at full capacity right off the bat – your business will ramp up - and you will need some money to keep the doors open during that time. Odds are the operating capital you request will not be gone in 90 days; as you increase sales you will require less and less of that money and it will be your cushion for much longer. Some business types will historically need more than 90 day working capital, so ask what is the typical amount of working capital included for your type of company when applying for a loan.

Where the money is going is also crucial. If you are going to use the majority of the money for debt consolidation or to increase your salary, you are dramatically limiting your chance of being funded. Lending institutions are much more open to loaning money for purchasing equipment or something that is tangible, retains its value, and they can repossess if necessary.

The length of a loan has role in the overall decision. The difference in the monthly payments between a 5 year and 10 year loan can be significant to the cash flow, and can make or break a company’s success. It would be in your best interest to run your cash flow projections using information provided by your loan officer giving you the typical loan length and interest rate.

What To Do:
Make sure your terms of the loan are reflected in your payment for the loan in the cash flow projections. If you are planning on starting a business, do not put in the salary you’d eventually like to make. Determine your “survival level” salary needs and use that number.

If you are making a profit at those levels, those profits could be your salary increase. A lending institution is not going to look at a loan where a significant portion of the money they’re loaning is going into your pocket.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Social media..

So .... your company's on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn ..... now what? What do you say? How do you draw attention to your company by just having a presence here? You don't! Interaction is the key. Listen. Participate. If some...one asks a question and you know the answer ..... answer it! Less personal information and photos (save that for your personal FB page), and more to let people know that you know your stuff! Watch this quick video ....

SC DOT Offers Bonding Program for Doing Business With the Government

If you're interested in getting your business bonded, this "Bonding Education Program" offered by the South Carolina Department of Transportation will be helpful, and also give you a boost in efforts to do business with the government.

Our apologies for the right part of this poster image being cut off, but in order to have it large enough to read, there was no choice.