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A Way to Fund Women Start-Up Businesses

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Opportunity for your woman-owned start-up business is just a website away. We are awash in opportunities, thanks to “crowdfunding” andthe government’s approval for the practice ofcrowdfunding in the United States. Have you heard about this? If not, you could be missing out on a great way to find financing for a new product, business or creative endeavor.

Congress and President Obama enacted the JOBS Act, which includedcrowdfunding provisions, in April. Crowdfunding basically entails asking a crowd of people to donate money to your project. There are a variety of crowdfunding websites where you can submit your proposal that outlines your project, your deadline, what rewards you may offers to your donors, and your fundraising goal amount.

Benefits of crowdfunding

Small investments work: The great thing about crowdfunding is that it can make it easier for women-owned businesses to find money. Instead of requesting thousands from a few wealthy contributors, you can draw small amounts, potentially as little as $1, from a large number of people. Because the donations can be much lower, people are more willing to support you.

Low-risk for donors: Crowdfunding is relatively low-risk for donors. For one thing, they probably don’t have a large chunk of their savings involved. On many crowdfunding sites, if you fail to meet your fundraising goal by your deadline, the donations will revert back to the donors. This means that if they support your effort, but no one else does, they won’t lose their money. Some sites do have a “keep-it-all” model where creators get the money either way, so it’s important to read the guidelines before participating.

You still own your work: The big perk for you is that unlike traditionally large investors, these people really are donors, rather than investors. They will not be financially rewarded, nor will they own a stake in your business or product rights. That will belong to you. Many websites offer opportunities for you to offer a reward to donors – most often that will be a copy of the CD you made, the toy you invent or something of that nature.

Where to find crowdfunding opportunities We’re awash in crowdfunding sites just now. There are a variety of platforms available, but here are a few you might consider.

Kickstarter: This funding platform is for creative projects – films, games, music, art. The site launched in 2009, and more than $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people. A look at statistics on the site shows about 44 percent of projects are successful in their fundraising goals.

RocketHub: This international community has helped thousands of artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists raise millions of dollars. If you want to proceed cautiously with crowdfunding, this is probably one of the safest sites to use. RocketHub actually testified to Congress about crowdfunding and has since also published a whitepaper about the future expansion of crowdfunding in the United States. Alon Hillel-Tuch, founder and CFO of RocketHub, believes “social funding is going to dominate the online space for the next five years,” according to a Forbes article.

We Funder (business start-ups), Startup Addict (no niche needed), Quirky (inventors), New Jelly (arists/films), Cofolios (small local biz) – the list goes on and on.

Tips for crowdfunding campaigns

Get an early start: Before you set up your project on a crowdfunding site – which will require a deadline for fundraising – try building some support on social media beforehand. If you can get commitments for about 50 percent of the project before you ever put up your proposal, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

It’s all in the marketing: As with anything, it’s all in your pitch. Make sure the video you make to introduce your campaign captures your passion and vision. Convince people that this is a project that is going somewhere. Remember: Creativity sells! The more unique you are, the more attention you’re likely to get. If you tell a great story about why you’re pursuing this goal and win people’s hearts, you’re on your way.

Get social! As noted earlier, crowdfunding works best when used in concert with social media. Work to build support on Facebook, Twitter and so forth. If you’re not a social media user, you will struggle to build a successful crowdfunding campaign. If you’re not taking advantage of social media, now is the time to get with the program – crowdfunding or not – as it is a top business marketing tool these days.

Help your supporters: Give your supporters the tools to fully back you. One suggestion is to provide emails or posts they can give to their own friends to expand your network of support.

Work really hard: Crowdfunding and building social media support take work. Don’t expect it to be easy. You need to invest time, energy and creativity if you want to see it pay off.
Kevin Lavelle, CEO and Founder of Mizzen+Main, an apparel company took advantage of crowdfunding when invited to do so. In a Forbes article, he recommended that you consider these questions before pursuing crowdfunding.

  • Is this the sole method of sourcing capital for your business or a part of your overall strategy?
  • Are you using crowdfunding for a specific initiative or to build your entire business?
  • Can you handle the increased demand for your products if your campaign takes off?
  • Will you be able to fulfill the rewards or perks you are offering to those funding your business?

Lavelle points out that it is important to understand the rules of the crowdfunding platform you use, and the ins and outs of the perks being offered to donors. Be sure your business can meet whatever incentives are offered.

If you’re a young woman-owned company, crowdfunding can be a fantastic opportunity because it does not require you to give up your business equity. And while building your support for your funding, you may be building a following for your business, as well.

The SEC is examining crowdfunding, and there are more changes likely to result. So be sure to keep an eye on the regulations as they surface, and be well-versed in the crowdfunding platform rules so that you can make the most of the opportunity to win capital without finding yourself in a difficult position.

October Amber Grant is on Cupcake Wars! Not kidding!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

** A quick shout out to last month’s Amber Grant winner , Bianca Bianco, owner of Bella Savour. Bianca is on the Food Network’s “CupcakeWars.” Good luck to Bianca – and you can catch her episode this weekend on the Food Network.

What Obama’s Re-election Could Mean for Small Women’s Businesses

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

A quick reminder before we get to our update… We’re now reviewing applications for the November Amber Grant for women. And, yes, if you’d like to be considered for the grant, we’d love to hear your story!…

With the recent re-election of President Barack Obama, you may be wondering what this outcome means for small women’s businesses like yours over the next four years. While we can’t be absolutely certain what the next presidential term will bring, and President Obama may not deliver on every goal he has, here’s a look at some issues that may affect your business.

Tax cuts for small businesses: Obama has called for tax cuts that would benefit many small businesses. He’s advocated for the corporate tax rate to drop to 28 percent from its current 35 percent. Manufacturers would pay no more than 25 percent. He’s also backing more liberal tax deductions for small businesses that invest in new equipment. Obama might find willing partners on the Republican side to help him make these cuts.

Startup assistance:According to The Wall Street Journal, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act – signed by Obama earlier this year – could help business owners obtain capital more easily. This should be exciting to women business owners looking for money: The Act includes a provision allowing small businesses to raise as much as $1 million in equity funding over the Internet through crowd-funding websites that will have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The provisions could go into effect as early as January, though some delays make take place.

Health care costs: Obama’s re-election means the health care overhaul moves forward. Key provisions of the law won’t go into effect until 2014, including the requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide affordable health insurance for their workers. The exact cost of that is not yet known – probably won’t be until states set up exchanges where individuals and companies can buy coverage.

Capital Gains Tax: If you’re looking to sell a small business, this one is for you. President Obama and Congress agreed in 2010 to extend Bush-era capital gains tax rate of 15 percent through the end of 2012. With his re-election, that 15 percent rate is likely to continue – but he has proposed extending the tax rate only to those who report under $250,000 in income. Those making more will probably revert to the old rate of 20 percent.

Spending cuts: In an effort to address the federal deficit, Obama plans to curtail spending – which could include federal contracts. On the one hand, this may mean revenue loss for small businesses, and could also lead to job cuts by those businesses. However, if the deficit problem is ignored, taxes would most likely rise in coming years, which could leave small business owners with less money to invest in their companies.

Business regulations: Obama has a bit of a mixed record on regulation, and that’s likely to continue. He’ll most likely create more rules that small businesses will need to follow, but he also puts a focus on trying to keep those regulations from being overly burdensome. Policies to foster small business are expected to continue to be a priority.

That’s all for today. We hope you have a great week!

October Amber Grant Deadline is tomorrow!

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I just wanted to give you a friendly reminder that October 31, is the final day to apply for the Amber Grant this month. If you haven’t already applied, it only takes a few minutes to tell us about yourself and your business dreams.

Count Me In, with support from the Sam’s Club Giving Program

Monday, September 24th, 2012

** We wanted to inspire and inform you with some news and notes from the world of women’s business. Hope you enjoy it! J

** A quick heads up that the AmberGrant for Women Business Owners is coming up on its September deadline. If you’d like to apply, our judges would love to hear your story. We will be announcing a winner the first week in October!

** An initiative for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their business to a quarter of a million dollars or more in annual revenues has been announced. Count Me In, with support from the Sam’s Club Giving Program, has started the Urban Rebound Program, which is headed to Detroit and Charlotte, N.C., this year. This is a great opportunity for the 100 women they select from each city to participate in their Business Accelerator Series. Learn more about it.

** The biggest women’s business news this week may be the Fortune Magazine list of America’s most powerful women for 2012. In the No. 1 spot is IBM CEO GiniRometty. Pepsi Co. chairwoman and CEO IndraNooyiis in second place again this year. But Hewlett Packard’s CEO Meg Whitman made a significant climb in the list from No. 9 in 2011 to No. 3 this year. See the full list. Coincidentally, this year’s Fortune 500 that lists the largest corporations in the U.S. (released in May) also included 18 businesses led by women. That is the largest number to date. In 2011, 12 women-led firms were listed. Slowly but surely the glass ceiling for women is being chipped away.

** Kudos to Alamo Travel Group owner Patricia PilegoStout, based in Texas. Patricia has been named the national 2012 Hispanic Businesswoman of the Year by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She founded the travel business 3 decades ago, and she now employs 69 people. Patricia volunteers time and resources to mentoring other Hispanic entrepreneurs, according to the San Antonio Business Journal.

** Need a good read this fall? A new book by Annette Baugrund sheds light on the story on one of America’s earliest successful businesswomen and someone you may have never heard about. The book, Dispensing Beauty in New York and Beyond: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Harriet Hubbard Ayer, tells the story of Ayer’s life, during which she built a career as a cosmetics mogul – then later as an influential journalist who wrote and edited pages of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, according to The Huffington Post.

** A bit of disturbing news to be aware of.A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology this month shows the business climate is stacked against black women. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management conducted a study with 228 participants, who were given fictional reports about a company’s performance. These reports included variations where the leader was male, female, white or black, successful or unsuccessful. The results showed that when a business struggled, black women were viewed more critically than white men or women, and were viewed more harshly than black men, as well.

** This one is worth a few minutes of your time. Kate White, who recently left her post as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, has given an insightful interview with about how women can succeed in business. White has also written a book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every G

Tips For Using Facebook To Advertise Your Business

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

We got a great response to our last article on setting up a YouTube Channel for your women-owned business. So we thought we’d share some tips on setting up a Facebook page to help your business as well. Also, a quick reminder that next Tuesday is the deadline to apply for the Amber Grant for the month of July. If you’d like to share your story with us, we’d love to hear from you. It only takes a few minutes!

Tips For Using Facebook To Advertise Your Business

Social media platforms are a perfect fit for small businesses owned by women entrepreneurs. And one of the most effective mediums today is through advertising on Facebook. This is one platform that could catapult your small business into the hearts and minds of (literally) millions of viewers with a modest investment of money, plus some time and creativity. It is no wonder that more and more businesses are now using Facebook to promote their services. If you are planning to boost your profits with Facebook, here are a few tips that will help you:

1.   Highlight one “can’t ignore” property of your product or service – Why should anyone come to you? Ask yourself this question. When you put up your advertisement on Facebook the answer to that question should be extremely appealing. The best advertisement is one that says less but touches on people’s natural curiosity. Focus on that one thing that you are offering that others do not – with a hint of newsworthiness. Consider the following examples: ‘Dress designer shows off her one-of-a-kind latest.’ ‘Sterling silver jewelry at the cost of one cup of coffee,’ ‘Your grandparents used to shop at a bakery like this.’ Make something curious and interested enough to check you out.

2.   Focus on Developing a relationship, not making a sale – Word your ads to appeal to the heart and build relationships, not make a sale. Avoid the word ‘buy’ in your ads. Tell people why you are special and they will come to you; don’t tell them to buy your products or services because this will alienate them rather than attract them. Remember, Facebook is the place where friends meet and update each other about their day-to-day trivia. Make your ad fun to read and especially great to “like” so other friends can see it and “like” it too, and you will get leads virally.

3.   Make irresistible limited time offers – Announce special deals that perk the curiosity of the reader. Design the deal in such a manner that the reader would not only be tempted to try your product/services out, but also recommend it to others. In this way, people will at least sample your product/service. If you are good and make a great impression, this person will become your lifetime customer and your very own personal marketer – by telling their friends about you!

4.   Offer rewards for introducing friends – Offer exceptional rewards for introducing your business to others. Announce exceptional rewards for those who introduce their friends to your business and see your business grow. Rewards are one of the best ways to generate money for women entrepreneurs on Facebook.