Inspiration and Information for Starting Your Business

National Small Business Week Honors Entrepreneurs

SBA national small business week 2014Today is the start of National Small Business Week.  The Small Business Administration, corporations and non-profits are hosting live events and webinars throughout the week to applaud the accomplishments of small business owners and to equip them to achieve even greater success.  You can find the details of the events on the SBA website.

If you have been thinking about incorporating your business or forming an LLC, now is the perfect time to do so.  In honor of National Small Business Week, BizFilings is offering 20% off any of our business formation packages.  We are looking forward to celebrating your business accomplishments with you.

Get Ready! National Small Business Week Is Next Week

national small business weekStarting a business is an achievement. And, for more than 50 years, National Small Business Week has been giving entrepreneurs the pat on the back they so richly deserve.

National Small Business Week 2014 takes place May 12-16. The U.S. Small Business Administration, corporate and non-profit sponsors and elected leaders have joined forces to host live events throughout the country, as well as online learning opportunities.

 Live events in San Francisco (May 12), Kansas City (May 13) and Boston (May 15) offer you a chance for networking, learning and celebrating the accomplishments of fellow entrepreneurs.  A two-day live event in Washington, D.C. is slated for May 15-16, which will also include the naming of the 2014 National Small Business Person of the Year.

If you don’t live near one of the national events or unable to slot an entire day to attend, you may want to take advantage of one (or more) of the one-hour webinars that are offered throughout the week. Topics range from mastering mobile technology to grow your business to launching a customer loyalty program. Although the sessions are free, registration is required.

Here at BizFilings, we applaud the accomplishments of small business owners year-round.  And during National Small Business Week we are offering 20% percent off any formation services from May 12 – May 16. Celebrate Small Business Week and give your business the recognition it deserves by incorporating or forming an LLC.

What Late-Night Comedians Can Teach You About Social Media

twitterBack in 2006, Twitter was newly incorporated and most people were confused as to why they should jump on the social network bandwagon. Now, almost eight years later, the popular social medium has become one of the most unconventional yet innovative news sources in the world, delivering breaking news the moment it happens. But Twitter isn’t just a real time news hub; it has become a helpful tool for businesses, too- particularly those of the late-night comedy variety.  We break down how late-night comedians such as Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel have reaped the rewards of staying in touch with the world via 140 characters or less.

Building relationships with fans. In this day and age, fans don’t want to just be an audience. They want to interact with their idols. Twitter allows this relationship to exist. Because late night personalities are usually in control of their accounts, fans get to know the person behind the thirty minute daily segment. Jimmy Fallon has done an exceptional job at creating this connection with fans through his bit, “#latenight hashtags.” Fallon will tweet a funny hashtag for users to respond to and then find the funniest tweets from fans and read them aloud on his show. Team Coco is an account that was created by a fan of Conan O’Brien’s when he was removed from his short-lived stint on The Tonight Show. Fans joined together overnight to stand by their favorite comedian, going viral on social media and leading to a massive spike in O’Brien’s ratings and eventually the adoption of his own show.

Keeping their brand relevant. Twitter is arguably the quickest way to get news in real time these days. And as a late night personality, if you know what your fans are talking about at any given moment, it becomes easier to keep your brand relevant. Twitter provides its users with a short list of “trending topics,” a short list of what most people are talking about at that very moment. One topic in particular that gained recognition this year was “twerking,” a dance move made popular by pop icon Miley Cyrus. In reaction to the controversial dance, late night personality Jimmy Kimmel anonymously uploaded a video to YouTube titled “Worst Twerk Fail EVER – Girl Catches Fire!” Thanks to social media, the video went viral, racking up 9 million views in less than a week. Jimmy Kimmel invited the girl from the video onto his talk show where he admitted to the audience that it was he, in fact, who was behind the video, creating a buzz amongst fans that lasted until the following week.

Spreading brand awareness When Conan O’Brien launched his own late night show, he recognized an audience of younger, socially active viewers. So Conan followed suit. By entering the realm of social media, Conan immediately expanded his brand awareness by connecting directly with them on Twitter.

Small Business Best Practices for the Holiday Season

giftsThe holiday season is likely to be an important time for your small business. From staffing to marketing to giving back – we have some great tips to help your business shine its brightest this year!

Staff appropriately

It is important to not only take into consideration the fact that you will be doing extra business during the holiday season, but also that your regular employees are going to want time off. Plan ahead of time and set expectations amongst your existing employees regarding what days they will be required to work.

Reward your staff

Despite it being a stressful time for your business, it is important to take the time to reward your staff so they feel appreciated. Bonuses, holiday parties, time off and gifts are all great ways to give back to your hard working team. Plus, the additional appreciation and perks will help keep your staff’s morale up!

Reward your loyal customers

Take this time to give back to the customers who have been loyal to you all year. Offer special deals or previews, which will help your frequent customers feel valued and may lead to additional business through referrals!

Utilize social media

Take advantage of your Facebook and Twitter pages to not only promote your products or services, but to offer special deals and contests to your followers. Share how your product or service can be the perfect gift this season. Social media is also effective because your followers can share your products and offers with their friends.

Give Back

Take the time to remember what the holidays are really about – giving. Donate to a local charity or non-profit organization to show your business is spreading the holiday cheer! Other ideas include having your office collectively donate to charities like Toys for Tots or volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Not only are you giving back to your community, but it is an opportunity for you to promote your business locally!

Tips to Staying Productive this Holiday Season

productivity

As we all know, the holiday season brings mixed feelings of joy, excitement, stress and distraction. Some of us feel the motivation that comes along with a new year while others adopt a more laid-back demeanor towards the end of the year. It’s easy to get lost in the madness of the holidays and lose focus of work obligations with all of the festivities to prepare for. However, true entrepreneurship requires productivity and motivation, so here are some tips on how to keep the momentum going when all you want to do is stuff your face with pie and watch Elf (you know it’s true!):

Take time to reflect. As the year comes to a close, it’s a great time to apply the lessons you learned throughout 2013 to your plans for the New Year. How did you do this year compared to your goals? Were there things you wished you had accomplished? Can those things still add business value if pursued during the upcoming year? Take that list and figure out not only what goals you didn’t accomplish, but why you didn’t accomplish them and what you can do to succeed in 2014.

Set your New Year’s Resolutions. Everyone does this in their personal lives, but few actually stick with their resolutions throughout the year. Resolutions aren’t just for people who want to lose weight or spend more time with family; they’re for you, the entrepreneur, too! Whether it is to meet a financial goal or to expand your business to reach a new market, setting attainable goals is critical in the world of business. This could also include improving upon already existing strategies, like content marketing. Do your social channels need a refresher? Are you getting the online engagement with customers that you were hoping for? If not, it may be time to revamp your digital brand presence in the coming year.

Develop a 2014 game plan.  The reasoning behind setting goals is to achieve a certain desired result, but goals don’t achieve themselves. Take this time to really delve into your goals and research exactly what needs to be done on your end to complete your goals. Lay the groundwork for the year ahead so you can successfully manage the process from beginning to end.

Focus your Attention Wisely. Everyone multitasks – it’s how we get so much done! But with so many distractions around the holidays, both personal and work, it is important to remain focused on the key tasks that need completion before heading out of office. Channel your holiday spirit by making a list and checking it twice to be sure you have given each project the attention it deserves!

Celebrate yourself! Congratulations to you! You have made it to 2014 with many things (we are sure) that you can be proud of! Positive reinforcement is necessary to instill positive energy moving forward. You must have confidence in your abilities in order to successfully run your own business. Take a break to keep your energy up, that way you can work more efficiently and accomplish as much as possible.

Happy Holidays from BizFilings! 

Startups that Made it Big

tweetEdible Arrangements

Tariq Farid started a flower shop in East Haven Connecticut at the age of 17. After seven successful years as a florist, Farid had a new idea – edible flower bouquets. So in 1999, Farid and his brother opened the first Edible Arrangements shop, going on to franchise the business in 2001. By 2012, the small business had grown to over 1,100 store locations around the world.  In 2013, Edible Arrangements reached number 40 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2013 Entrepreneur Franchise 500. Farid’s innovative way of thinking paved the way for his business to quickly become one of the most recognized companies in the United States. Farid attributes his success to hard work and taking risks. His goal when starting his business was never to get rich, but to provide consumers with something unique and fresh, original to the marketplace.

Groupon

The idea for Groupon came from Andrew Mason who incorporated the site in 2008. With $1 million in seed money, the company quickly evolved onto a $1 billion sales pace, ahead of others in the market. Not only was Groupon quick to profit, but it expanded internationally to more than 40 countries in the course of a year. One of the key factors involved in Groupon’s rapid growth as a startup? Their target audience is virtually unlimited; any given consumer can benefit from a discount.

HubSpot

HubSpot was founded and incorporated in 2006 by MIT classmates Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. With an understanding that traditional marketing was evolving into a need for more intricate tools, Halligan and Shah created software that integrates online marketing tools, from blogging to monitoring social media, into a single platform. Used by over 8,000 companies in 56 countries, HubSpot is the most powerful, tightly integrated and comprehensive marketing software available, stemmed from the founders’ analysis of a personal problem that needed a creative solution!

Twitter

Like HubSpot, Twitter found the “white space,” in the world of social media, an online platform for users to spark social conversations and share news with the click of a button. The idea came from Jack Dorsey, a then NYU undergraduate student, in 2006. Dorsey, along with Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass, launched the site within five months of the initial brainstorming session. In one year the number of tweets posted per quarter jumped from 400,000 to 100 million, and two years later Twitter users were sending up to 50 million tweets per day. One of the most important lessons for entrepreneurs to learn from Twitter is that your initial idea must meet the current and ever-changing needs of the consumer. Your idea may need to be tweaked or adjusted throughout the process and may depend on the current state of your marketplace, what your competition is doing and how consumers are responding to the change in trends. It is your responsibility, as the entrepreneur, to figure out what the consumer is missing before they know it themselves.

Pinterest – Pin Your Business!

pinWith so much talk in the news about how businesses are focusing on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, it seems that Pinterest is being somewhat overlooked in the business world. A common misconception surrounding Pinterest is that it is just a social network for do-it-yourself-ers to share their latest ideas and project. Unbeknownst to many business people, Pinterest is a great way for you to share your brand visually, and encourage others to share with their individual communities.

We have pulled together 4 essential tips to help you effectively use Pinterest as a business owner.

1. Make it easy to pin things from your website.

Many websites have widgets or buttons that enable easy sharing of content on Facebook and Twitter – we recommend employing the same tactic for Pinterest. This will allow visitors to your site the ability to pin a product they like to one of their own personal boards with just the click of a button. Once a product is pinned on a customer’s board, it can be re-pinned to any of their follower’s boards – giving you free and easy advertising for your business!

2. Brand your pins.

With the ability of easily sharing and re-sharing your business’ products, you want to make sure your business is actually receiving credit. Make sure to brand any photos you are sharing on Pinterest with your company logo so it easy for viewer to know where the product came from and so your business receives credit. Brand photos posted on your business’ website as well for when visitors pin items directly from your site.

3. Give back.

Pinning other members’ content can help you broaden your reach and potentially secure new customers by showing your commitment to knowledge transfer. Just be sure that you pin appropriately – relate it somehow back to your business goals or brand message. For example, if you own a furniture store, repin local designers and their content to show support and reach their followers. It’s also a smart idea to stray away from cross-sharing competitor pins, so to not confuse your Pinterest audience of your place in the market.

5. Create exclusive offers.

You can pin images sharing exclusive offers with your Pinterest followers. This will increase the number of followers you have on Pinterest because people will want access to your “Pinterest exclusive” deals. Followers are also likely to repin these offers so they can share them with their friends – bringing in new business for you!

 

When and Why You Need to File a DBA

File DBA

Every business owner, or prospective business owner, should know a few key facts regarding the name of their business. There are some circumstances under which it might be more beneficial to do business under a fictitious, or “Doing Business As” (DBA) name, and business owners should be cognizant of these different scenarios.

Possibly the most common occurrence for filing for a DBA is when starting a business, as a sole proprietor or general partnership. Unless you file a DBA, your business name and your personal name will automatically be one in the same. For example, if Jane Smith wants to open her own clothing boutique but doesn’t want it to be named “Jane Smith’s,” she would need to file a DBA. So, if your business name includes a combination of your first and last name (Jane Smith’s Boutique) you may not need to file a DBA, but if it is only your first name (Jane’s Boutique), a DBA is required. In such a situation, it’s usually based on personal preference.

However, there are some instances which require a business to file a DBA, like when opening a business bank account. Most banks typically require sole proprietors or the partners in a general partnership to file a DBA before allowing them to open a bank account for their business, and will require a certified copy of the DBA.

Sometimes it’s not a bank that requires you to file a DBA, but a client. For example, if you freelance, a corporation might require you to have a DBA. However, in this situation it is more likely that the company will require you to incorporate your business or form an LLC. All this really means is that you will need to turn your sole proprietorship or general partnership into a legal business recognized by your state of incorporation. In most states it is fairly simple to incorporate your business.

If you are already a corporation or LLC, you might find yourself wanting to expand your company into a new area of business that is not currently represented by your business name. In this case, operating under a new DBA might be beneficial to your expansion into a new industry.

Lastly, you might find yourself wishing you could add on another business or website separate from your current business. For example, say your current company makes and sells women’s clothing but you want to venture into the world of children’s clothing, keeping the stores as two separate entities. You could file a DBA and build a second website isolated from the first to target a different audience.

Key Notes When Filing a DBA:

  • If you need to file a DBA, there are a few more rules you should be aware of. You cannot make your DBA a corporate name such as Jane Smith, Inc. or Corp., if your existing business is not a corporation.
  • In most states, filing a DBA may be required within 30-90 days of opening your business so make sure you check your state’s regulations. It is illegal to conduct any business using a fictitious name if a DBA has yet to be filed.
  • DBAs are typically filed at the state level and occasionally at the country level as well, so it is important to file your DBA in the state or country in which you conduct your business. Also, some states require the publication of your DBA.
  • You can expect your DBA filing to take approximately one to four weeks, so plan ahead!
  • Legally, you are required to identify your business with either your Social Security Number or an EIN (Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax ID Number), but small business advisors tend to recommend applying for an EIN and using that instead of your SSN.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process that website owners carry out to ensure their websites appear more often – and more prominently – in search listings and to decrease the bounce rates of their sites. SEO allows website owners to increase their traffic and exposure in search engines, primarily Google, because that’s where the majority of searches occur.

 

By increasing your rankings for key terms and phrases on major search engines, you can drive more people to your website. With an increase in targeted traffic, you have the ability to acquire more leads and increase sales.

 

SEO helps establish a business’ presence on the Internet and increases its credibility by appearing on major search engines.  A business’s presence on the Internet is a very powerful marketing tool; people regularly use the Internet to find new businesses to fulfill their needs. If your business is ranked highly in the search results, there is a greater likelihood that an influx in targeted consumers will visit your website – these are potential customers looking to spend money on products like yours.

 

Search engines use an algorithm to decide where to rank your site. Links from other websites are considered votes of confidence to the search engines. If your website has several ‘votes,’ search engines are more likely to rank your website highly.

 

If you successfully obtain high quality links from authority sites in your niche, your business’ website rankings will skyrocket. Eventually, when provided enough time and votes, your website could potentially reach the top of the search results.

 

Search engines realize that ranking websites based off of links is exploitable. Therefore, they have implemented other algorithms to counteract artificial links. If your website triggers a filter for unnatural links, then it loses its position in the search results.

 

It is important to use genuine links in your linkbuilding campaigns. If you follow the rules and use high quality links, your website is less likely to be penalized in the long-run. It is important to pace your linkbuilding so that it appears natural; websites don’t typically receive thousands of links in a short period of time.

 

New website owners often get excited about SEO and try to barrage their site with thousands of links to gain a prominent position within search results. This strategy always backfires; once these sites are labeled as spam, it is almost impossible to receive a good ranking.

 

SEO can be tricky; your site needs links to rank, but too many links at once will cause your site to lose rankings. If you aren’t sure what you’re doing, it might be wise to hire a professional SEO firm to help increase your site’s rankings.

 

The world of SEO is constantly evolving; what works one day may negatively affect your site’s ranking the next. There are no steadfast rules that a person can follow to guarantee website rankings. Different techniques and methods work for different sites; it’s important to find someone who can make sense of SEO for you. An expert can look at your site and develop a method that will work for your business.Keyboard

What Business Owner Type Are You?

Are you a soloist, mountain climber, or lemonade stand entrepreneur?

This November, BizFilings posed the question “What is Your Business Owner Type” and surveyed 1,110 small business owners. We used the results to create a fun infographic to help you decipher which type of business owner you are! Turns out, most small business owners consider themselves Soloists, striving for independence!

43% of respondents considered themselves Soloists while 31% saw themselves as The Lemonade Stand Kid, driven by passion. Closely behind was The Mountain Climber at 26% who focus on the bottom line.

What type of business owner are you? Check out our facebook post to see how other business owners answered.

What is your business owner type