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Archive for the ‘Small Business Skills’ Category

Transition: At Its Heart, The Localist Movement is About Love…

In Mendo Island Transition, Small Business Skills on September 27, 2012 at 5:00 am

From BALLE
Thanks to Mari Rodin

First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech this week has been described by many as unique in the world of politics. Political affiliations aside, what moved so many of us was her use of a particular word, used repeatedly, throughout her speech: Love.  Politicians don’t often talk about love, but it is a word we use at BALLE. And this week something happened that could be described as an outpouring of love in Bellingham, Washington, the community where I live.

A 15-year old natural foods store, Terra Organica/Public Market, put out a call for help on facebook last week. This is a BALLE business and a member of local business network Sustainable Connections. The owner, Stephen Trinkhaus admitted he’d taken some expansion risks the past year that had over-extended their business. He said that they were now on the brink of closing.

He said he had decided to ask for help because if they closed, 60 people would lose their jobs — and because he really believes in what he offers our community. If they closed, we would have fewer healthy, thoughtfully selected products and services. So he asked if we’d consider shopping there…a lot…in the next few weeks.

Within hours the Bellingham Herald had posted his letter on their website and by closing their sales had already increased by $2,000 for the day. The next day was their busiest day in all of 2012, and the following day was their busiest in fifteen years of doing business here.

A customer came in and offered a $1,000 check as a gift! Others contributed money as well. One person had the idea of buying extra food to give to the food bank, and through facebook, many others decided to do the same. Far away friends of friends on facebook sent in donations! A local citizen organized a “cash mob” to be held five days after the plea for help More…

Stop rigging the system against small business…

In Small Business Skills on August 7, 2012 at 7:00 am

From ELIZABETH WARREN
Politico

I meant what I said.

I stood before a group of voters in Massachusetts last year and talked about what it would take to move forward as a nation. I laid out how we all needed to invest in our country, to build a strong foundation for our families today and make sure the next kid with the great idea has the chance to succeed.

But too often that kid can’t succeed because the system is rigged against him.

Small-business owners bust their tails every day. They’re the first ones in and the last to leave, six and often seven days a week. That’s how my Aunt Alice ran her small restaurant, where I worked as a kid. My brother and my daughter both started small businesses. And I’ve visited and talked with small-business owners across Massachusetts. From the insurance agency in Brockton to the coffee shop in Greenfield and the manufacturing plant in Lawrence – all started and run by people with good ideas and a determination to succeed. More…

Small Biz: Pragmatic Entrepreneurial Populism

In !ACTION CENTER!, Small Business Skills on February 5, 2011 at 7:19 am


From MIKE LUX
The Huffington Post

The progressive movement is at a challenging but fascinating time in our country’s history. Even when the Democrats had a newly-elected president who ran on a platform of big change, 60 votes in the Senate, a big margin of control in the House and the most progressive Speaker in history, we still had trouble getting big changes passed. We accomplished some important things, but not nearly as much or as progressively as we had hoped. Now, with a Republican House, More Small Biz..

Small Biz: In Broken Market, ‘Swipe’ Fees Must Be Regulated

In Aw, ya selfish greedy bastards ya, Small Business Skills on February 5, 2011 at 7:18 am

 

By LARRY NANNIS
Business Week

Small merchants pay too much to process credit- and debit-card transactions. The Fed’s proposed rules will be far more fair—unless big banks and card issuers block them

America’s small business owners have long endured a broken credit-card and debit-card processing market and its attendant ills. Visa, MasterCard, and issuing banks have long charged merchants interchange—or “swipe”) fees every time a consumer makes a payment with a credit or debit card. The fees are excessive for merchants of all sizes, but tier pricing disproportionately affect small companies because their transaction volume is lower than that of their large competitors. More Small Biz…

Survey Finds “Buy Local” Message Benefitting Independent Businesses

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on January 27, 2011 at 11:41 am


From NEW RULES PROJECT

For the fourth year in a row, a national survey of independent businesses has found that those in communities with an active “buy local” campaign have experienced markedly stronger revenue growth compared to those located in areas without such a campaign.

The survey, which was conducted over an 8-day period in January, gathered data from 2,768 independent businesses, including retailers, service providers, restaurants and others. It found that those in places with a “buy local” initiative reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere.

Among independent retailers, which accounted for nearly half the respondents, there was a similar gap in holiday sales performance, with those in “buy local” communities seeing a 5.2% increase in holiday sales, while those elsewhere More Buy Local…

A New Deal for Local Economies: The Good News

In !ACTION CENTER!, Small Business Skills on August 26, 2010 at 10:04 pm

From STACY MITCHELL
Sheepless.org
Story here

A New Deal for Local Economies: II. The Birth of Corporations
A New Deal for Local Economies: III. Bigger Is Not Better
A New Deal for Local Economies: IV. The Value of Community
A New Deal for Local Economies: V. Keeping Money Local

Let me begin by sharing some good news. Scattered here and there, in my country and in yours, the seeds of a new, more local and durable economy are taking root.

Locally grown food has soared in popularity. There are now 5,274 active farmers markets in the United States. Remarkably, almost one of every two of these markets was started within the last decade.(1)  Food co-ops and neighborhood greengrocers are likewise on the rise.

Some 400 new independent bookstores have opened in the last four years.(2) Neighborhood hardware stores are making a comeback in some cities. More students graduating from pharmacy school report that they would rather open their own drugstore than work for chain. In April, even as Virgin Megastores prepared to shutter its last U.S. record emporium, more than a thousand independent music stores were mobbed for the second annual Record Store Day. more

Small Business News from the New Rules Project

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on August 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm

From NEW RULES PROJECT

Misrepresenting Small Business
In this commentary for Business Week, the New Rules Project’s Stacy Mitchell argues that the two groups that have traditionally spoken for small business in Washington often push an agenda that only big business could love . READ MORE

Grassroots Financing is Underwriting a New Crop of Neighborhood Businesses
Securing a loan to open a new independent bookstore in Brooklyn looked like a long shot even before the financial crisis. After the meltdown, it seemed downright impossible.

Then business partners Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting hit on an idea: they turned to neighbors and future customers to help finance the business, raising $70,000 in small loans in a few months.

Although no hard data exist, the number of businesses relying on their customers and neighbors for financing appears to be on the rise. Just as CSAs have played a key role in the rebirth of small-scale farms, so too may these new community-supported enterprise models help launch a new generation of independent grocers, bookstores, and other neighborhood businesses.   READ MORE

more

Farm to Family School Bus Turned Farmers Market

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on July 31, 2010 at 11:59 pm


From INTERIOR DESIGN

If you see a school bus rolling down the streets of Richmond, Virginia, look closer- that bus might not be transporting school children, but fresh produce from the peripheral rural farming areas around the city. Mark Lilly has transformed a 1987 diesel school bus into a mobile produce market in order to connect local farms with communities to re-establish a personal relationship with locally grown food, and of course to encourage better eating and general well-being. Farm to Family, the bus market and CSA program, changes its offerings throughout the year to reflect what’s growing every season. And the space itself, inside the bus, is smartly planned and built-out as a sturdy framework for toting vegetables around town. Check out their website to see where they’re pulling up next!

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Dave Pollard: How a Community-Based Co-op Economy Might Work

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on July 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World

Most people have been brought up to believe that the competitive, grow-or-die, absentee-shareholder-owned, “free”-trade “market” economy is the only one that works, the only alternative to a socialist, government-run economy. This myth is perpetrated in business and other schools, by the media, by accountants and lawyers and bankers and, of course, in the business world. This amoral-capitalist economic model has “succeeded” in the same hostile way our species has “succeeded” — by brutally suppressing, starving for resources, using power to steal from, and, when all else fails, killing off anything deemed a “competitor” or threat to its monopoly on power and resources. It relies on massive subsidies and near-zero interest rates thanks to well-rewarded political cronies, on political graft and corruption worldwide, on oligopoly and restraint of competition, on wage slavery and worker ignorance, on phony money and unrepayable debt, and on advertising, human insecurity, ego and greed to create an artificial demand for its shoddy, overpriced crap. And, on top of all that, it’s utterly unsustainable.

For an alternative, natural economy to work, we either have to wait for this amoral-capitalist economy to collapse (which it will, but probably not for a few decades), or we have to plant the seeds for this alternative economy in the cracks where the current one is already failing most badly — at the community level where the economy is most obviously failing to produce meaningful work, sucking resources, wealth and opportunity out, and dumping mass-produced and imported crap that ends up in the landfill, and pollutants in our air, water, soil and food that make us sick and contribute to climate change…

more here
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What is Lump Charcoal and Why Use It?

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on July 24, 2010 at 7:46 am

From THE LUMP CHARCOAL DATABASE

[Years ago, when I learned Alice Waters over at Chez Panisse in Berkeley used Lazzari Mesquite Charcoal in her restaurant grilling, I converted from briquettes and have used only Mesquite since. The co-op now carries lump charcoal and so does the Farm Supply. I get large bags of Lazzari Mesquite from Harvest Market in Fort Bragg when we are over on the coast. Lamb sausage hot dogs, and lamb burgers, from Owens Family Farm in Hopland, over mesquite... oh, yeah! I'm headed to the Farmers Market right now. And: Is lump charcoal a local business opportunity? (see photos below) -DS]

What is charcoal?

In general, wood charcoal is a substance obtained by partial burning or destructive distillation of wood. It is largely pure carbon. Wood charcoal is prepared by heating wood in the absence of oxygen. In this process volatile compounds in the wood (e.g., water, hydrogen, methane and tars) pass off as vapors into the air, and the carbon is converted into charcoal. (Tar is a generic name for big, smoky, sticky molecules that form liquids when they’re cool. The tars, in particular, can contain carcinogenic compounds, like benzo-A-pyrene.) With the volatile component driven off, you are left with wood charcoal that is about 20 to 25-percent of the original volume of the wood. It’s chiefly carbon, with traces of volatile chemicals and ash. When it burns, it won’t produce as much smoke as burning wood, and it will burn long, hot and steady. Charcoal, being almost pure carbon, yields a larger amount of heat in proportion to its volume than is obtained from a corresponding quantity of wood.

What forms does charcoal come in?

As far as cooking is concerned, there are two main forms, lump charcoal and briquettes. Lump charcoal is charcoal which has not been formed into briquettes. Briquettes are the pillow shaped little pieces of compressed ground charcoal.

Which is better, lump or briquettes? more

Doc Searls: The Bottom Line Isn’t Everything

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on June 23, 2010 at 7:25 am

From DOC SEARLS
Linux Journal

Is there something new that [computer] open source development methods and values can bring to the economy? How about something old?

I think the answer may come from the developing world, where pre-industrial methods and values persist and offer some helpful models and lessons for a networked world that’s less post-industrial than industrial in a new and less impersonal way.

This began to become apparent to me a few years ago I had a Socratic exchange with a Nigerian pastor named Sayo, whom I was lucky to find sitting next to me on a long airplane trip. We were both on speaking junkets. He was coming from an event related to his latest work: translating the Bible to Yoruba, one of the eight languages he spoke. I was on my way to give a talk about The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book I co-authored.

My main contribution to Cluetrain was a chapter called “Markets are conversations. Sayo asked me what we meant by that. After hearing my answer, he acknowledged that our observations were astute, but also incomplete. Something more was going on in markets than just transactions and conversations, he said. What was it?

I said I didn’t know. Here is the dialogue that followed, as close to verbatim as I can recall it…

“Pretend this is a garment”, Sayo said, picking up one of those blue airplane pillows. “Let’s say you see it for sale in a public market in my country, and you are interested in buying it. What is your first question to the seller?”

“What does it cost?” I said.

“Yes”, he answered. “You would ask that. Let’s say he says, ‘Fifty dollars’. What happens next?”

“If I want the garment, I bargain with him until we reach an agreeable price.”

“Good. Now let’s say you know something about textiles. And the two of you get into a long conversation where both of you learn much from each other. You learn about the origin of the garment, the yarn used, the dyes, the name of the artist, and so on. He learns about how fabric is made in your country, how distribution works, and so on. In the course of this you get to know each other. What happens to the price?” more

The Soul Desires Expression at Work

In Books, Small Business Skills on June 19, 2010 at 9:18 am

From JOHN O’DONOHUE
Anam Cara (Soul Friend) 1998

For many people, the workplace is unsatisfactory and permits neither growth nor creativity. More often than not, it is an anonymous place where function and image have control since work demands such labor and effort, it has always made the worker vulnerable. Even in the ancient Celtic tradition, negativity could be harnessed to make nature work against the worker…

In the modern workplace, a negative atmosphere can be very destructive. When we speak of an individual, we speak of his presence. Presence is the way a person’s individuality comes toward you. Presence is the soul texture of the person. When we speak of this presence in relation to a group of people, we refer to it as atmosphere or ethos. The ethos of a workplace is a very subtle group presence. It is difficult to describe or analyze an ethos; yet you immediately sense its power and effect. Where the ethos is positive, wonderful things can happen. It is a joy to come to work because the atmosphere comes out to meet you and it is caring, kind, and creative. If the ethos of the workplace is negative and destructive, then when people wake up in the morning, their first thought of going to work literally makes them ill. It is lonely that so many people have to spend so much of their short time in the world in a negative and destructive work ethos. The workplace can be quite hostile; it is often an environment of power. You are working for people who have power over you. They have the power to sack you, criticize and bully you, or compromise your dignity. This is not a welcoming atmosphere. People have power over us because we give our power away to them…

Frequently people in power are not as strong as they might wish to appear. Many people who desperately hunger for power are weak. They seek power positions to compensate for their own fragility and vulnerability. A weak person in power can never be generous with power because they see questions or alternative possibilities as threatening their own supremacy and dominance. If you are going to be creatively confrontational with such a person, you need to approach that person very gently in a nondirect manner. This is the only way that the word of your truth can reach such a frightened, powerful person.

The workplace as a place of power can also be a place of control. Control is destructive because it reduces your own independence and autonomy. You are placed back in an infantile role where you are dealing with an authority figure. Because of our untransfigured relationship to our parents, we sometimes turn authority figures into giants. There is a crucial distinction here between power and authority. When you are awake to the integrity of your inner power, then you are your own authority. The word authority signifies your authorship of your ideas and actions. The world functions through power structures. more

5 Free and Open-Source Software Alternatives for Small Businesses

In Small Business Skills on June 18, 2010 at 7:11 am

From MASHABLE

[...] Many business owners and managers don’t realize is that they can get all the software they need to run a business — quite literally all of it in most cases — 100% free of charge. That includes operating systems, word processing programs, accounting software, email servers, graphic design programs and more.

If you put in some time to do some research, you might find perfectly free software alternatives that work just as well as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop (Adobe Photoshop), QuickBooks, and other better-known programs.

Best of all, since FOSS is free to download and try, there’s no risk in testing it out. Take a look at some of these programs and see if a few of them would fit your business needs…

GIMP is a free Photoshop substitute that will satisfy all but the most demanding professional graphic designers. If you need to make simple web graphics, retouch a few product photos, or create flyers or other marketing materials, this program should work nicely for you. It’s robust, and if you’ve used Photoshop or Photoshop-like clone programs, the interface and commands will be familiar to you. The images you create can be saved in an array of common formats, including PSD Photoshop files, in case you need to send your files to a Photoshop user.

All in all, GIMP might be the single greatest money-saver on this list. It’s completely free, whereas a single Photoshop license — which you’ll need to pay for again each time Adobe releases a new version of the software — can cost hundreds of dollars per user…

For years, there’s been the commonly held idea that Linux OSes are command-line intensive, difficult to use, easy to crash and generally for nerds only. Much of this “fear, uncertainty and doubt” has come from corporate entities that benefit most from these drastic misperceptions. While you might want to reach out for a little help when installing your Linux OS for the first time, you’ll be shocked at how simple and user-friendly a Linux distro (that’s short for “distribution,” the Linux term for version) can be. The interfaces are elegant and intuitive, much more so than even Windows or Mac for many users…

1. OpenOffice open-source alternative to Microsoft Office.

2. GNUCash …alternative for Microsoft Money and Quicken

3. GIMP …alternative for Photoshop

4. Zimbra …alternative for Microsoft Exchange email

5. Linux …alternative for Windows and MacOS

More details here.
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Seth Godin: Goodbye to the office

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on June 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

From SETH GODIN

Factories used to be arranged in a straight line. That’s because there was one steam engine, and it turned a shaft. All the machines were set up along the shaft, with a belt giving each of them power. The office needed to be right next to this building, so management could monitor what was going on.

150 years later, why go to work in an office/plant/factory?

1. That’s where the machines are.

2. That’s where the items I need to work on are.

3. The boss needs to keep tabs on my productivity.

4. There are important meetings to go to.

5. It’s a source of energy.

6. The people I collaborate with all day are there.

7. I need someplace to go.

But…

1. If you have a laptop, you probably have the machine already, in your house.

2. If you do work with a keyboard and a mouse, the items you need to work on are on your laptop, not in the office.

3. The boss can easily keep tabs on productivity digitally.

4. How many meetings are important? If you didn’t go, what would happen?

5. You can get energy from people other than those in the same company.

6. Of the 100 people in your office, how many do you collaborate with daily?

7. So go someplace. But it doesn’t have to be to your office.

If we were starting this whole office thing today, it’s inconceivable we’d pay the rent/time/commuting cost to get what we get. I think in ten years the TV show ‘the Office’ will be seen as a quaint antique.

When you need to have a meeting, have a meeting. When you need to collaborate, collaborate. The rest of the time, do the work, wherever you like.

The gain in speed, productivity and happiness is massive. What’s missing is #7… someplace to go. Once someone figures that part out, the office is dead.
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Microbusiness Independence: Invent your way out of the rat race

In Books, Small Business Skills on February 22, 2010 at 8:18 am

From ANNA HESS and MARK HAMILTON
Wetknee Books

Did you know that people in pre-Industrial societies worked only 3 hours per day on average?  Why are you working 40+ hours per week when you could feed yourself and your family on just a couple of hours a day?

With less than a thousand dollars in startup costs, we built a small, home-based business which started paying all of our bills in just six months.  I’m here to tell you that you can make money from home too, and in a way that fits a simple, homesteading lifestyle.  In fact, using all of the tips in this book, I’ll bet we could have reached our current work at home income level in half the time.”

Microbusiness Independence is not a get rich quick book.  more→

E. F. Schumacher Rides Again

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on February 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm

E. F. (Fritz) Schumacher

From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
The Archdruid Report

Last week’s Archdruid Report post [Becoming a Third World Country] fielded a thoughtful response from peak oil blogger Sharon Astyk, who pointed out that what I was describing as America’s descent to Third World status could as well be called a future of “ordinary human poverty.” She’s quite right, of course. There’s nothing all that remarkable about the future ahead of us; it’s simply that the unparalleled abundance that our civilization bought by burning through half a billion years of stored sunlight in three short centuries has left most people in the industrial world clueless about the basic realities of human life in more ordinary times.

It’s this cluelessness that underlies so many enthusiastic discussions of a green future full of high technology and relative material abundance. Those discussions also rely on one of the dogmas of the modern religion of progress, the article of faith that the accumulation of technical knowledge was what gave the industrial world its three centuries of unparalleled wealth; since technical knowledge is still accumulating, the belief goes, we may expect more of the same in the future.

See rest of article Why Factories Aren’t Efficient here
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See also SmallIsBeautiful.org
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Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace

In Small Business Skills on February 1, 2010 at 11:59 pm

From MICHAEL SHUMAN
Post Carbon Institute Fellow for Local Economies
Via Energy Bulletin

Article Excerpt
It’s time to connect the headlines between persistent unemployment in the United States and growing food insecurity. The next Obama stimulus package should focus on how local food can address both simultaneously.

A study done two years ago found that a 20% shift of retail food spending in Detroit redirected to locally grown foods would create 5,000 jobs and increase local output by half a billion dollars. A similar shift to Detroit-grown food by those living in the five surrounding counties would create 35,000 jobs – far more than ever will come out of the multibillion-dollar bailout of the auto industry. The experience of microenterprise organizations around the country suggests that each of these jobs can be created for $2,000-3,000 of public money–a tiny fraction of the price of the last stimulus.

To some skeptics, locavorism is a cute hobby only embraced by Prius-driving environmentalists in rich countries. Libertarians like those at the Cato Institute argue that the best way to localize is to open Walmarts in every community. Progressives like Peter Singer of Princeton University ask, “If you’re living in a prosperous part of the United States, what’s really ethical about supporting the economy around you rather than, say, buying fairly traded produce from Bangladesh, where you might be supporting smaller, poorer farmers who need a market for their goods?”…

Originally published January 25, 2010 in The Huffington Post

Report Excerpt
From the executive summary of Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace, by Michael Shuman, Alissa Barron and Wendy Wasserman more→

New Network of Responsible Business Organizations Forms

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on January 31, 2010 at 9:13 am

From Better World Club

Turmoil at the US Chamber of Commerce Is The Backdrop

A number of Responsible Business Organizations came together on October 23rd to agree on principles for a network of responsible business organizations, the American Sustainable Business Council. The groups included New Voice of Business, Green America, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and B Corporation, among others…

The new network comes together against the backdrop of turmoil at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has announced a hardline stance against action on climate change, a policy that may have breached the Chamber’s internal rules as it was not passed by a board vote.

In September and October 2009, several companies quit the Chamber due to the Chamber’s stance on environmental impact reform, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, Apple Inc, and Mohawk Fine Paper. Nike, Inc decided to resign their board of directors position but to continue membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence policy by being part of the conversation.

Give credit where it’s due: The US Chamber of Commerce “Knows Drama” (our apologies to TNT). In a move calculated to simultaneously grandstand and stall for time (until another round of elections?), the Chamber attempted to force the Environmental Protection Agency to arrange a climate science hearing before any federal climate regulations were passed and in order to challenge the very notion of human-caused climate change.

In any case, regardless of their impact on society and whether they are warming or cooling the earth, the fossil fuels that are a substantial source of climate change are polluting. And products should be priced so that pollution and its impact on 3rd parties are discouraged.

The Chamber opposes the Waxman-Markey energy bill and is threatening to sue the EPA if it regulates greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that such a move would dramatically increase “the price of everything that uses energy.” more→

Local Stock Exchanges and National Stimulus

In Small Business Skills on January 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm

From MICHAEL SHUMAN
Small-Mart.org
Thanks to Michael Foley
Willits

Since the global financial system unraveled in 2008, U.S. policymakers have struggled heroically to improve the performance and oversight of global banks and investment firms. But these actions have been largely unresponsive to the growing number of Americans who would like to remove their hard-earned retirement savings from these high financial fliers altogether and invest their nest eggs in their community. Might it be time for policymakers to consider the potential stimulus payoffs from nurturing micro-equity investments?

One reason for growing public interest in local investment is the spread of “buy local” campaigns, a movement that is more than just local hucksterism. Consider the title of an article in a recent issue of Time: “Buying Local: How It Boosts the Economy.” Cutting-edge economic developers (except at the national level) increasingly recognize is the importance of strengthening locally owned, small businesses.

Growing evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. That is because locally owned businesses spend much more of their money locally and thereby pump up the so-called economic multiplier. Other studies suggest that local businesses are critical to tourism, walkable communities, entrepreneurship, social equality, civil society, charitable giving, revitalized downtowns, and even political participation. more→

Rural Matters

In Small Business Skills on November 24, 2009 at 6:44 am

From SHEILAH ROGERS
Redwood Valley

From the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (the trade association for domestic microenterprise development): On Wednesday, November 18, 2009 Connie Evans, president and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) participated in President Obama’s Small Business Financing Forum, hosted by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills held at the Treasury Department. The invitation-only Forum included Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Grady Hedgespeth, SBA Director of Financial Assistance, Gene Sperling, Counselor to the Treasury Secretary, small business owners from around the country including a borrower from a micro lending institution, CDFI leaders, and bankers.

The purpose of the forum was to provide ideas to President Obama on what additional steps the Administration can take to improve access to capital to the small business community. Evans acknowledged the good relationship AEO has with both the SBA and the CDFI, and thanked both Administrator Mills and Secretary Geithner for their inclusion and attention to the smallest of businesses served by the microenterprise development community which includes both CDFIs and SBA Microloan intermediaries. Evans continued with these specific remarks when recognized from the floor:

“Our members are receiving ten times the number of bank referrals for loans per week as compared to before the economic crisis. They are spending more time providing technical assistance in making these loan applications viable. We ask that you allow technical assistance funds more→

Debt, equity, and a third thing that might work better – Seth Godin

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on November 16, 2009 at 10:09 am


From SETH GODIN

If your business needs money, it seems as though you have two choices:

  • Get a loan from a bank
  • Raise equity from an investor, giving up part of your company in exchange

Banks are everywhere, so the idea that they can loan us money seems obvious. And venture capitalists and the companies they fund are in the news all the time… and making a billion dollars sounds like fun.

Here’s the thing: for most businesses, most of the time, neither is a realistic option.

Banks aren’t in the business of taking risk. Which means that they make boring loans to boring companies for boring purposes. They do everything they can to be riskless. Which means you need to guarantee the loan with your house or with assets worth far more than the loan. Which means that a good idea is not a sufficiently good reason for a loan.

And equity? Well there are two problems. The first is that the number of investments that professional VCs can make is microscopically small compared to the number of businesses that want them. Go to Seth’s Blog for article
~~

Love a local business? Buy a share

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on September 23, 2009 at 10:43 pm

From CNN Money

Sometimes it takes a village to fund a company.

John Halko was halfway through renovating an expanded space for Comfort, his mostly organic eatery in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., when the credit crisis hit. His source of funding — a home-equity line — ran out, so he applied for a loan at a local bank. He was turned down.

Halko wasn’t ready to throw in the dish towel. His solution? The modern equivalent of an old-fashioned barn raising. Instead of soliciting neighbors to lift timbers, he asked them to open their wallets. For every $500 they purchased in “Comfort Dollars,” his patrons received a $600 credit toward meals at the restaurant. As the community rallied around Comfort, Halko says, “it gave us hope.” He raised $25,000 in six months, and the new, larger space – now called Comfort Lounge — opened for business in May.

Plenty of entrepreneurs are turning to their communities for support in these tricky times. As the recession wreaks havoc on America’s economy, finding the money to launch, expand or even just sustain a small business is often a struggle. In the second quarter of 2009, venture capital funds raised the smallest amount since the third quarter of 2003, according to the National Venture Capital Association in Arlington, Va. Banks continue to pull credit lines and credit cards from many small businesses. Even proprietors who are willing to extract capital from their homes — often their biggest personal asset – can’t always do so, because the declining housing market has left so many homeowners underwater.

But entrepreneurs are resourceful, and as the economic crisis forces them to seek new sources of capital, a growing number appear to be finding money in their own backyards. After all, local customers have a personal incentive to invest in their favorite businesses. And while no one is officially tracking the trend, anecdotal evidence suggests that the practice is growing.

Keep reading at here

Creating a Resilient, Natural Economy

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on August 11, 2009 at 7:39 am

From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World Blog

August 11, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

My friend Dale and I have been conversing about my recent post concerning why so many entrepreneurs want to be sole proprietors, when, historically, committed partnerships (of people with a shared purpose and complementary skills) tend to be far more resilient, sustainable, and joyful. I’d been writing about our modern aversion to accepting responsibility for other people, and Dale suggested it was this fear of responsibility, more than any of the ten fears of entrepreneurship* I write about in my book, Finding the Sweet Spot, that keeps so many of us in the thrall of wage slavery. Dale wrote:

What keeps people from starting startups is the fear of having so much responsibility. And this is not an irrational fear: it really is hard to bear…This really fits with my own experience.  I had plenty of opportunity to expand my business creating software products and sharing software development expertise. The thing that always held me back was knowing the responsibility that I had for everyone else.  I was also nagged by the thought that this great burden that I was taking on would not be respected, or worse, would be taken advantage of.

I was chatting about this this afternoon with Tree (a very successful sole proprietor, doing work as an independent professional facilitator), who has challenged me before on whether “the work we’re meant to do” really should preferably be in partnership with others. I had lamented that most of the people who had written to me to tell me that thanks to my book they had found their sweet spot (the work they’re mean to do), also told me that this work involves writing or personal coaching or some other individual enterprise.

Keep reading here
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Ukiah! Invest Locally: Put Your Money Where Your Life Is

In Mendo Island Transition, Small Business Skills on July 3, 2009 at 8:00 am

by Michael Shuman
Yes Magazine

July 4, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Americans want to invest locally: here’s how.

The Obama Administration believes that the best way to repair our financial system after the Great Crash of 2008 is to improve the performance and oversight of global banks and investment firms. A growing number of Americans, however, would prefer to pull their retirement savings out of these high financial fliers altogether. They would rather invest in their communities.

The problem is, they can’t. Outdated federal securities laws have left Main Street dangerously dependent on Wall Street, and overhauling these regulations turns out to be a hidden key to economic revitalization. There are two reasons Americans increasingly wish to invest in locally owned businesses. First, they understand that these businesses are the real pillars of a prosperous, sustainable economy. A growing body of evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. That’s because locally owned businesses spend more of their money locally and thereby pump up the so-called economic multiplier. Other studies suggest that local businesses are critical for tourism, walkable communities, entrepreneurship, social equality, civil society, charitable giving, revitalized downtowns, and even political participation.

Second, many Americans no longer believe Wall Street’s assertions that a global, publicly traded corporation is the safest place to invest their savings. According to data in Statistical Abstract, sole proprietorships (the legal structures chosen by most first-stage small businesses) are nearly three times more profitable than C-corporations (the structures of choice for global businesses). Moreover, a bunch of global trends, like rising energy prices and the falling dollar, are making local businesses increasingly competitive. Meanwhile, Americans are shifting their spending from goods to services, a trend that promises to expand the local business sector, since most services depend on direct, personal, and, ultimately, local relationships.

Locally owned businesses currently generate half of the private economy, in terms of output and jobs. Add in other place-based institutions—nonprofits, co-ops, and the public secto—and we’re talking about 58 percent of all economic activity. So in a well-functioning financial system, we’d invest roughly 58 percent of our retirement funds in place-based enterprises. Yet local businesses receive none of our pension savings. Nor do they receive any investment capital from mutual, venture, or hedge funds. The result is that all of us, even stalwart advocates of community development, overinvest in the Fortune 500 companies we distrust and underinvest in the local businesses we know are essential for local vitality. This situation represents a colossal market failure.

The good news is that much of the problem could be solved by modernizing securities laws. Today these laws place huge restrictions on the investment choices of small, “unaccredited”investors—a category in Securities and Exchange Commission vernacular that includes all but the richest 2 percent of Americans. The regulations prohibit the average American from investing in any small business, unless the business is willing to spend $50,000 to $100,000 on lawyers to prepare private placement memoranda or public offerings—thick documents Keep reading→

Revisiting The Cluetrain Manifesto – 10 Years Later

In Small Business Skills on June 5, 2009 at 7:37 am

From cluetrain.com

[A 10th Anniversary edition with added chapters is about to hit the bookshops. Here is the manifesto. You can't get much better at business market forecasting and the impact of the internet than this. -DS]

If you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get… We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings. And our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it!

Online Markets…

Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.

…People of Earth

The sky is open to the stars. Clouds roll over us night and day. Oceans rise and fall. Whatever you may have heard, this is our world, our place to be. Whatever you’ve been told, our flags fly free. Our heart goes on forever. People of Earth, remember.

95 Thesis

  1. Markets are conversations.
  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
  5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
  6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

Rural Matters

In Small Business Skills on May 25, 2009 at 8:45 pm

From SHEILAH ROGERS
Redwood Valley

May 26, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

May is a busy month for networks, not-for-profits and alliances that are dedicated to the pursuit of entrepreneurship as the economic development strategy in rural communities throughout the United States.  Small and microbusinesses have, after all, created 2/3 of new jobs during the past 20 years and they are historically the first responder during economic downturns.

The National Summit on Entrepreneurship hosted by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity gathered in Washington, DC and announced two new partnerships: one with BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and one with Green for All, the national organization committed to the growth of living wage blue collar jobs in all ‘Green’ sectors.

A compelling interactive session at the National Summit on Entrepreneurship celebrated the unique flavors of particular rural regions and the emergence of deliberate entrepreneurial efforts that build upon those flavors.  Regional Flavor Strategies bring together stakeholders – microenterprise development programs (we have one – it’s called West Company), chambers of commerce, cultural and historic preservations programs, not for profits, educational institutions, Main Street programs, and many others to promote the assets and flavor of their region.

Entrepreneurs are supported to identify and respond to their region’s flavor and encouraged to think and act innovatively as they utilize the flavor of their region to grow and expand their enterprises.  Entrepreneurs from outside the area are attracted to these new vital centers for a place to locate their businesses.

Mendocino County and the North Coast region have identified Six Targets of Opportunity where there is demonstrated job growth, wage increases, competitiveness and career potential.  Three of the six are particularly flavorful in Mendocino County and may provide opportunity to develop a Regional Flavor for the region. Keep reading→

Community-Based Entrepreneurs – Dave Pollard

In Around the web, Small Business Skills on May 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm

From Dave Pollard
How To Save The World

Six steps to sustainable, community-based Natural Enterprise, from my book Finding the Sweet Spot

I’m in Denver for the weekend at the annual conference of BALLE, the international network of community-based sustainable businesses. The reason I’m here is more about looking for ideas than personal networking. One of the mandates I’ve taken on in my current work is to make our association (the Chartered Accountants of Canada, equivalent to CPAs in the US) champions of entrepreneurship and of new, sustainable enterprise formation.

The reason we’re championing entrepreneurs is that no one else will. It’s an interesting paradox that the North American economy is driven by entrepreneurs (virtually all new net employment in the last decade has been in the entrepreneurial sector), not by big corporations, but all the money and attention flows to the big corporations. Entrepreneurs don’t get bailouts, massive incentives to locate in your community, or big unpublicized government subsidies. Universities say they teach entrepreneurship but what they do is the minimum (‘intrapreneurship’) lip service to get big corporations to fund ‘chairs in entrepreneurship’ that let them hire and retain professors. Economic Development Offices of governments at various levels are designed to attract businesses (i.e. property and business tax revenues) so their work for entrepreneurs is mostly low-budget, low-value work like providing names of lawyers and accountants and telling you how to get business licenses, incorporate and file taxes.

Accountants and lawyers (especially the smaller ones) will take on entrepreneurs as clients, but generally are unenthusiastic and not terribly helpful for businesses at the critical start-up stage. Bankers (with the notable exception of credit unions) generally avoid entrepreneurial businesses, and lenders of last resort are usually vultures who create more problems for entrepreneurs than they solve. BALLE founder Michael Shuman has written about these challenges in his book The Small-Mart Revolution.

What’s worse, in some progressive circles, the very word ‘entrepreneur’ is suspect — it’s almost as if profit and enterprise are considered necessarily exploitative.

Keep reading here→.
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An Open Letter to Wage Slaves

In Dave Smith, Mendo Island Transition, Small Business Skills on April 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm

By Dave Pollard

I’m asking you to do more than just freeing yourself from a life of grinding, miserable, meaningless work by creating your own “Natural Enterprise.”

The following is an open letter from Dave Pollard to the readers of his book, Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work. It has been adapted for the web.

In our modern society, we rely on the education system to teach us what we need to know to live and make a living.

That system has let us down badly. It is in the interest of those who control the current economic system, those with the established wealth and power, that we not know that there is a better way to make a living than working for them, doing meaningless work as wage slaves, just to buy ourselves some leisure time to do what has meaning for us.

We each need, personally, to rediscover the joy and meaning of natural work, of Natural Entrepreneurship. Finding the Sweet Spot is an attempt to get you started on that journey.

We need a blossoming of millions of Natural Enterprises, connected and collaborating and supporting each other as part of a dynamic Natural Economy.

But what we also need, collectively, as a society, is a blossoming of thousands, millions of Natural Enterprises, connected and collaborating and supporting each other generously as part of a dynamic new Natural Economy. Is such a thing possible?

Keep reading Creating a Natural Economy at Alternet

See also my Foreword in Dave Pollard’s book [DS]→
~~

Where are our young, local, small business entrepreneurs now that we need them?

In Books, Dave Smith, Mendo Island Transition, Small Business Skills on March 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

From Dave Smith
My Foreword to Finding The Sweet Spot by Dave Pollard

[To counter the efforts of those who would foist The Masonite Monster Mall on our community, we need young entrepreneurs to galvanize new local businesses at the potential Masonite Transition Park. The intended gathering of Big Box Dinosaurs and other chain and franchise stores to force their way in, feed at our community trough, and leak their ill-gained revenues and profits to parts unknown, rather than allow small locally-owned businesses to thrive and re-circulate our money locally, will leave our community with lasting scars. If they overrule local citizens and government through their big bucks purchase of the initiative process, and the zoning of the Masonite site is changed adding $30 million to its value, then you can kiss local small business opportunities here goodbye for a generation at least. It's highly doubtful, for many reasons, that a mall will ever be built. But by keeping the zoning industrial, we will keep the property price within reach of local appropriate technology startups, with good paying jobs, rather than having some retail monstrosity imposed on us from outsiders. Recessions, with great changes upon us, are opportune times to help create the next world of business. Because credit and investment capital is tight or non-existent, businesses will have to be started on shoestrings. This is good. It focuses attention and requires great tenacity. The choice is ours. This book is a key business how-to manual from Dave Pollard for budding entrepreneurs. And here is my Foreword. -DS]

3/27/09 Ukiah, North California

A couple of stories, one a “business failure”, the other a “business success.”

During the seventies, with high unemployment and energy shortages a fact of daily life, some friends and I started and ran a very successful natural food cooperative in Menlo Park, California called Briarpatch Natural Foods. It was created to fill a real community need, following the age-old business adage of “find a need and fill it.” People had time on their hands, and natural foods were expensive, so by working 8 hours every three months, members were able to purchase healthy foods for at least 30% less. Three of us co-managed the store, and the work of unloading trucks, stocking shelves, buying fresh produce at the produce terminal, running the cash registers, and everything else needed to operate a small grocery store was done by members. At one point, there were over 350 families on the waiting list.

Because labor is, by far, the largest expense of doing business, taking most of that cost out of the expense statement created not only cheaper food but an enormous forgiveness for the obvious inefficiencies of volunteer, untrained labor and the lack of basic business skills by its enthusiastic and smart, but woefully unskilled management. What fun we had playing store!

It eventually proved to be unsustainable long-term for the simple fact that business is cyclical and when Silicon Valley exploded into runaway growth and success, no-one had time to play store, and the store didn’t adapt quickly enough to the rapidly changing times that did it in. All vendors were fully paid, all member investments were fully returned, and the graceful ending of a beautiful success left us only fond memories. By our current business standards, it was a failure because it didn’t grow and make its “investors” a ton of money. By those of us most intimately involved in the daily business of running a community cooperative, it was one of our most beautiful, successful business experiences.

On the other hand, Smith & Hawken, the $100 million garden company I co-founded is considered an enduring entrepreneurial success. I disagree, and here’s why.

Keep reading→

Buddhist Economics – E F Schumacher

In Books, Dave Smith, Small Business Skills on February 25, 2009 at 6:20 am

By E.F. Schumacher
Small Is Beautiful (1973)

“Right Livelihood” is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics…

Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions. Some go as far as to claim that economic laws are as free from “metaphysics” or “values” as the law of gravitation. We need not, however, get involved in arguments of methodology. Instead, let us take some fundamentals and see what they look like when viewed by a modern economist and a Buddhist economist.

There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up to consider “labour” or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it can not be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a “disutility”; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment.

Keep reading→

Self-Actualizing Work – Abraham Maslow

In Books, Dave Smith, Small Business Skills on January 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

Maslow on Management (Book Excerpts)
Abraham H. Maslow

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization… It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming…
~

To do some idiotic job very well is certainly not real achievement. What is not worth doing is not worth doing well.
~

The test for any person is—that is you want to find out whether he’s an apple tree or not—Does He Bear Apples? Does He Bear Fruit? That’s the way you tell the difference between fruitfulness and sterility, between talkers and doers, between the people who change the world and the people who are helpless in it.
~

…seeking for personal salvation is anyway the wrong road to personal salvation. The only real path [is] salvation via hard work and total commitment to doing well the job that fate or personal destiny calls you to do, or any important job that “calls for” doing… This business of self-actualization via a commitment to an important job and to worthwhile work could also be said, then, to be the path to human happiness (by contrast with the direct attack or the direct search for happiness) — happiness is… a by-product, something not to be sought directly but an indirect reward for virtue… The only happy people I know are the ones who are working well at something they consider important… Or I can put this very bluntly: Salvation Is a By-Product of Self-Actualizing Work and Self-Actualizing Duty.
~

…most people prefer no work at all to meaningless work, or wasted work, or made work… In self-actualizing people, the work they do might better be called “mission,” “calling,” “duty”, “vocation,” in the priest’s sense… For the truly fortunate worker, the ideally enlightened worker, to take away work (mission in life) would be almost equivalent to killing him.
~

All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work. This is much like stressing the high human need for a system of values, a system of understanding the world and of making sense out of it. This comes very close to the religious quest in the humanistic sense. If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless. Perhaps here is also the place to point out that no matter how menial the chores—the dishwashing and the test-tube cleaning, all become meaningful or meaningless by virtue of their participation or lack of participation in a meaningful or important or loved goal.
~

Enlightened management is one way of taking religion seriously, profoundly, deeply, and earnestly. Of course, for those who define religion just as going to a particular building on Sunday and hearing a particular kind of formula repeated, this is all irrelevant. But for those who define religion not necessarily in terms of the supernatural, or ceremonies, or rituals, but in terms of deep concern with the problems of human beings, with the problems of ethics, of the future of man, then this kind of philosophy, translated into the work life, turns out to be very much like the new style of management and of organization.


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