Two Successful Entrepreneurs
Deborah’s Business Basics, August 15, 2008
3 Tips for Veterans Starting and Growing a Small Business
|Cindy from Ohio writes:
I have been on active duty in Iraq and am planning for separation in 6 months. I would like to start my own business, but don’t know where to begin, or where to find resources, especially a loan that I will need to get started
First, thank you for your time and sacrifice through your military service in protecting Americans at home and abroad.
There is some good news in these troubled economic times for you and your fellow veterans who are in business or who are thinking about going into business. There are a wide range of business development resources including loan programs – yes, even loan programs – targeted to support your business development activities. Here are three valuable actions that you can take to help you build your business success:
First: Determine your “business readiness”
Use the 10 Step Venture eMentoring Program, a free, online, interactive learning system that provides a thorough, step-by-step framework for developing business skills, knowledge and a support network for successfully launching or growing your own business venture. Here you can work through a series of worksheets that will return a score to help you to understand your relative business readiness. These results can also be emailed to a pre-selected business counselor from SCORE Counselors to America‘s Small Business, where you will receive feedback from an experienced business professional without charge.
The program begins with a self-assessment of suitability for being in business, and concludes with a blueprint for implementing the venture. It is self-paced – you proceed to the next session when you are ready. It is important to devote sufficient time to each of the exercises. For once, there are no predetermined right or wrong answers – the right answers are the ones that work for you.
It is valuable to have someone to discuss the various worksheet results with. That is why using someone else such as choosing a SCORE mentor as a sounding board can help determine whether it all really makes sense. Click here to register for the program, and visit www.score.org/index.html to locate a SCORE counselor.
Second: Build Your Networks
There are thousands of business assistance agencies that our collective tax dollars pay for to help you as a woman veteran entrepreneur, and others to build the skills and find the information they need to start, grow and succeed in business. These organizations offer free and low-cost help in practically all areas of business management including business planning, marketing, import/export, site location, funding, international business, government contracting and other core management disciplines.
Through these free and low-cost business support relationships, you may also obtain referrals to local private sector support organizations such as bankers, accountants and attorneys. Collectively, these resource providers will help you gain more insight and skills based on your own particular entrepreneurial needs and interests, and also help you to begin building your support network for the longer term.
To find the right person in your local area that can provide the specialized expertise that you need, visit the SMEToolKit to select your state in the BUZGate dropdown window in the center of the page.
Third: Find the Financing You Need – The Patriot Express Loan Program
The US Small Business Administration (SBA), in partnership with selected banks across the country, has established the Patriot Express Loan as an important new lending program to support veterans who want to go into business or who are already in business.
The Patriot Express Loan is for veterans and members of the military community who want to establish or expand a small business. Eligible military community members include:
The Patriot Express Loan is offered by SBA’s network of participating lenders nationwide and features expedited turnaround for loan approvals. Loans are available up to $500,000 and qualify for SBA’s maximum guaranty of up to 85% for loans of $150,000 or less and up to 75% for loans over $150,000 up to $500,000. The Patriot Express Loan can be used for most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases. Patriot Express Loans feature SBA’s lowest interest rates for business loans, generally 2.25% to 4.75% over prime, depending upon the size and maturity of the loan.
Visit www.sba.gov/patriotexpress/sba_patriot_expressloan.html to learn more or contact your local SBA office. Click here to learn about other SBA loan guaranty programs.
Taking advantage of eMail Marketing?
|Juanita from California writes:
1. First and foremost, the letter “F” means FOCUS
Focus on exactly who your audience is when framing your eMail marketing strategy and tailor your message accordingly. There are different eMail formats for different audiences. For example, you may announce a promotional event to prospective customers; distribute an eNewsletter to existing customers; and send a press release to media representatives to build public relations. The point is to focus on exactly who you want your eMail message to reach and why and then tailor your message so that it speaks clearly, succinctly and compellingly to each recipient.
2. For the letter “R” we stress REFINE your campaign
Refine your list AND your messaging over time to be sure that it is working. In terms of your list, you may find that having more than one type of list may be useful, such as customers, prospects, media, suppliers, investors, board members, etc. Your message is likely to be different for each group and will need to change over time to keep it interesting and compelling.
3. “I” means INVESTIGATE
To ensure that your campaign is effective, it is very important that you track, analyze and refine your eMail Marketing campaign on an ongoing basis. There are established reporting & analytic tools available from outsourced eMail Marketing service providers that may help to ensure that your eMail messages are being received and that you are in compliance with anti-spam practices.
4. “E” is for ENERGIZE
Marketing in any form is all about energizing your audience to take action. This holds particularly true with eMail marketing where you can include links, toll-free numbers and eMail addresses so that people can immediately respond once they are energized! A good rule of thumb is to create messaging that achieves 3 things:
5. “N” for NARROWCASTING
eMail marketing is a form of 1-to-1 marketing meaning that you are communicating to one person at a time. This 1-on-1 relationship is very important to understand because you want to be sure that you are speaking to that person’s interests, needs and wants. In this regard, narrowcasting means that your message must speak to that specific target audience or niche market based on their particular values, preferences, or demographic attributes. By doing this effectively, you will facilitate the desired response.
6. “D” is for DELIVER
As with all aspects of your business, be sure to deliver on what it is that you promise in your eMail marketing messages. While eMail can be cost-effective and cheaper than the price of a stamp, people take their eMail seriously. If you send eMails to people who have not “opted in,” you may be reported as a spammer. If your messaging does not speak to your audiences needs, they may unsubscribe. The point is to email to only those individuals who have given you permission to email them and then deliver on what it is that they are interested in receiving from you.
7. “S” is for SELL
One of the main objectives for launching an eMail Marketing strategy is to increase sales and so whether you are eMailing to the media, your Board, or customers, be clear that every message sent says something positive about your business. Make each message count.
The good news is that there are service providers out there who specialize in eMail Marketing. For example, Bronto offers proactive client support and educational resources regarding eMail marketing best practices, standards and tactics for success.
Wishing you productive progress ahead!
Protecting your business name!
Many women in business go to a lot of trouble to select an ideal name for their business. Once the name is selected, there are procedures for securing the use of that name and for protecting against others using the name in the future. For example:
Why register your business name?
If you are doing business under any name other than your legal name, you are required to register with your Secretary of State office. This requirement enables the public to learn who owns the business when it is called something other than your name.
To register with your Secretary of State, you have 3 basic options. You may secure the services of an attorney, do it yourself by following instructions at SMEToolKit FAQs, or learn about utilizing a convenient online registration service at BUZGate.org.
How to protect the usage of your business name?
Registering your business name is not the same as securing a trademark for your business name. A trademark is a form of intellectual property that provides you with rights about how your business name may be used and by whom.
To learn if the name of your business has already been trademarked or to trademark it if it is available, you may secure the services of an attorney, search or register it yourself by following instructions at SMEToolKit FAQs, or learn about utilizing a convenient online trademark registration service at BUZGate.org.
Naming your business should be a part of your overall marketing strategy. A good business name is one that your customers will remember and one that avoids confusion with other businesses that may have similar names. There are many free public sector business counseling resources searchable by state that can help you to develop your marketing strategy, as well as service providers who offer assistance with marketing strategy characteristics such as branding and public relations.
In the process of choosing your business name, you may want to also consider how it relates to a name for your Web site (called a domain name) particularly if you plan to engage in ecommerce. Ideally, the domain name is the same as your business name or some close abbreviation or other understandable contraction. Be sure to check domain name availability. When using domain registration services such as Go Daddy, you may search name availability and also receive suggestions for names if the one you choose is already taken.
For example, registering the name using something other than dot com (.com), such as dot net (.net), dot biz (.biz), and others are now an option. The objective is to choose a business name that people can relate to, remember and one that you can protect from illegal usage locally, nationally or even globally. For a further helpful perspective, read 30-Days to Business Startup.