SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

What Did You Do For Small Business Saturday? Harry and Jenny's Report

Think of it as Harry and Jenny’s Day Off – ala Ferris Bueller – we painted the town red on Small Business Saturday (November 25, 2017). First for proper context, read about Small Business Saturday here and here (we’ll wait for your return).

Welcome back! This adventure is presented chronologically so you can follow our footprints. All on November 25th – Small Business Saturday. And I was joined by Jennifer Hallmark, president of SMB Nation.

8:00AM: Harry checks his mail at the local “The UPS Store” that is locally owned and operated (Figure 1). Then it’s off for coffee to wait for stores to open!

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Figure 1: Checking the SMB Nation mailbox.

9:00AM: Harry purchases a JBL Charge3 Bluetooth Speaker to extend his mission of living life out loud! This is from the local Verizon store in the same center and is considered a “shop local” purchase as it impacts local employees (even though Verizon itself is an enterprise). The local cost was $149.95 plus tax (it could have been purchased for $124.95 online but the decision was made to purchase locally).

10:00AM: Harry uses the new JBL Charge3 as a boom box on his winter bike to play holiday music while out for a ride (Figure 2).

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Figure 2: Getting our music groove on!

1:00PM: Jonsing for pizza, Harry snags a slice at “That’s a Some a Pizza” (Figure 3) that is a locally owned small business on Bainbridge Island.

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Figure 3: Gotta eat!

1:30PM: Harry and Jenny meetup at the Town and Country grocery store in downtown Winslow (on Winslow Way aka “Main Street) to conspire for Small Business Saturday fun and hijinks. Jenny films the Small Business Saturday welcome vid you can watch by clicking Figure 4).

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Figure 4: Preaching at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce office.

2:00PM: Harry and Jenny cake walk (march) down Winslow Way to Eagle Harbor Books, a local independent bookstore that embraced Small Business Saturday formally with a Facebook event. As you can see in the video below, it worked as the store was busy! Watch it here (Figure 5).

 

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Figure 5: This small business actively embraced Small Business Saturday!

5:00PM: Jenny is long gone to spend time with her family and Harry is snuggled in for the Apple Cup – the NCAA football rivalry between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars on “rival Saturday” and enjoy a locally brewed beer (no pics due to editorial standards LOL).

Learnings

Both myself and Jenny are already conspiring about Small Business Saturday 2018. We discovered that Small Business Saturday still has relatively low awareness and local mindshare on Main Street. And there are now competing/complimentary last Saturday in November designations. In the video interview above (Figure 5) at Eagle Harbor Books, two authors divulge it’s also the 5th annual Indies First Day. According to the Portland Mercury in Oregon “Indies First Day celebrates independent booksellers, which in a world where we’re all under the control of Amazon Prime, are more critical than ever.”

Then there was long-time community advocate Jeff Shuey who highlighted a similar movement called “Shop Local” that has different branding but a similar message as Small Business Saturday. My research indicates this alternative movement has grass roots tied to *not* using your American Express card on November 25th (American Express is a founding partner of Small Business Saturday).

Finally one interesting variation on Small Business Saturday 2017 concerns Etsy-sponsored pop-up stores. Catch the CNBC coverage here. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/24/etsy-sellers-prep-for-small-business-saturday-2017.html

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Support SMB Nation - Cyber Monday and Beyond!

Folks are always asking “Harry – how can I support SMB Nation?” Well we have the answer that combines passion, professionalism and proactivity!

On Cyber Monday - watch our broadcast on LiveShopCast at 4pm Pacific (November 27) as we give it our all for community and offer you the ability to purchase cycling feed bags. Sign up HERE!

You can also view a couple recent LiveShopCast broadcasts by clicking below (cycling jacket left and water bottle right). A former SMB Nation employee is invloved in this startup - so please support her by clicking through. Better yet - sign-up for the 14-day trail byThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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So we have three (3) products for sale - right here right now! Read on...

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As you know, the staff at SMB Nation are passionate and avid bikers (road and mountain). Folks who attended the infamous SMB Nation 2005 fall conference received a yellow cycling jacket, the likes of which are still seen today in numerous MSP events!

Fast forward to today and you can buy SMB Nation goods and help support a great professional community.

Finally, you can proactively help the environment. For example, did you notice when you travel that airports have a water bottle fill-up fountain next to the water fountains? Yep – and the digital signage even tells you how many one time use plastic water bottles have been saved by using your own water bottle. So start that good behavior with your own SMB Nation water bottle.

Starting at $8.00 plus $2.00 for shipping (US only)

Click HERE to buy.

 

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UPDATES!

You can now purcahse the SMB Nation Cycling Jacket ($80 plus shipping) and the SMB Nation Cycling Feed Bag ($15 plus shipping). Just click on the images below to start your transaction!

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A Business Name vs. a Trademark: Do You Know the Difference?

By: Nellie Akalp

IKEA

 

As an entrepreneur, you understand the importance of protecting your business name. Think of the sales you might lose if another company opened up using your same name. If you’re building a brand, investing in advertising and hoping customers can find you, you’ll want to make sure you’ve properly protected your business name so no one else can use it.

But what exactly is the best way to do that?

Oftentimes, new business owners are confused about the difference between registering their business name with the state and filing for a trademark. Here, we’ll break down the differences so you can determine which approach is right for your business.

1. Registering a business name with the state
When you apply to be a corporation or an LLC, the secretary of state’s office is going to check to make sure that your proposed business name isn’t already in use by another company in your state.

Every state has its own laws about just how different a name must be from other business names. For example, some states will allow “Mandi’s Florist” when there’s already a “Mandy’s Flowers” registered. Other states will reject it and consider “Mandi’s Florist” deceptively similar.

Once your LLC or corporation application is approved, your name is protected in the state: No other business will be able to form an LLC or corporation with the same name in that state. However, there’s nothing to stop a business that operates as a sole proprietorship or partnership from using your name in the state. It just won’t be able to register as an LLC or corporation with that name.

addition, registering your name with the state has no impact on what happens in the other 49 states. If you incorporated your business in New York, another business can use your same name in New Jersey or Connecticut. And, it can even incorporate or form an LLC in other states with with the same name..

Depending on your business type and model, brand protection at the state level might be sufficient. For example, if you are opening a local restaurant or other establishment, you might not mind if another business uses your name in a completely different state. There’s little chance that a customer will confuse the two.

However, if you plan on expanding nationwide, selling your products/services across the country, or are just concerned that a partnership might use your name, then you should protect your name on a federal level with a trademark.

2. Filing for federal trademark protection
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design (or a combination of any of these) that identifies the source of a product or service and distinguishes it from competitors'. Trademarks can be granted on distinctive names, logos and slogans.

Trademarks are granted at the federal level by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The owner of a trademark has exclusive rights to the trademark and can prevent anyone else from using it. And these rights are protected at the state and federal levels.

When applying for a trademark, expect to pay $275 per class (a little more if you have an expert prepare the paperwork for you). Processing time can take upwards of six to 12 months with the USPTO. The process is more expensive and involved than registering a business name, but it provides you with exclusive rights in all 50 states. And, unlike copyrights or patents, trademarks have an unlimited lifespan so long as you comply with the renewal requirements.

 

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The 15 Most Profitable Small-Business Industries in 2016

Profitable Small Buseiness

 

by: Carolyn Sun

This article originally published March 4, 2016.

Being talented with numbers can really pay off if you’re looking to start a profitable business.

Accounting and tax services takes the top spot on the list of the most profitable type of small business with a generous 18.4 percent net profit margin followed by real-estate services (15.2 percent), law firms (14.5 percent) and doctor’s offices (13 percent) reports Sageworks, a financial data service that analyzed the net profit margin of more than 16,000 small businesses (that earned less than $10 million) between September 2014 and August 2015. Companies like Due.com are helpful for tracking time and invoicing.

What makes these industries profitable? For one, they’re driven by human capital.

“Service industries,” says Sageworks analyst Jenna Weaver, “are very common to find on the most profitable small-business list. This is generally due to lower overhead and startup costs. A lot of these industries you can start from your house.”

While profit isn’t the only matter for an entrepreneur to consider -- other factors to consider are whether the business matches his or her skills, what sort of licensing or training is required and how the business would fare during a recession -- it’s an important place to start.

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Overcoming the Challenges of Starting a Business

Every entrepreneur faces challenges which need to be dealt with persistently and regularly, though few would disagree such difficulties are more prevalent than when you are starting your business.

Sage collaborated with business owners and entrepreneurial support groups to Start up Challenge 1understand the common trials new leaders face, offering guidance to give you the best opportunity when starting your enterprise.

Marketing & Costing

Every new business marketing strategy should begin by examining its competition. If they are successful, find out where they are advertising and how. Use their same marketing techniques to give your own business a jump-start.

Once customers are visiting your store or website, if they are not making purchases, don’t adjust your prices. If you think they are fair, others will, too.

Instead, it is likely they aren’t convinced by your business. Ensure your website is modern-looking and using high-quality images, advertise your most high-end clients by publishing testimonies or getting permission to feature their logos, and offer incentives, like discounted prices.

Customer Contact Information

Most websites feature pop-ups which invite users to sign up to the business’ e-mail campaign so they can stay updated, though it may surprise you that the most effective place for this link is actually on the About page; Blog Tyrant noticed it’s the same customers that are interested in learning about your business that want to know more later, too.

This process can be a little trickier for brick-and-mortar stores, but instead of just asking purchasers to leave their contact information at the till, you can increase the number of sign-ups and purchasers in one go by placing your sign-up forms throughout the store alongside purchase incentives.

Admin

As much as every entrepreneur wants to focus on generating income, every business has to deal with administration. Fortunately, the digital age is making this easier than ever.

From hiring an online virtual assistant who can help you from anywhere in the world, to utilising smart applications, which can do anything from managing your business’ finances to enabling small teams to collaborate and share files, cloud-technology is reducing the time business owners need to dedicate themselves to repetitive and mundane tasks.

Relevant Technology

From AI applications and social media trends, to building responsive websites, technology is changing quickly. Even after following all the best-practice guidance available, one new piece of technology can be enough to cast your enterprise into obscurity.

Thus, it is essential to try and stay on top of the latest trends and innovations which might be relevant to your business strategies. Task your employees with each tracking a key technological area and meet for monthly updates. Alternatively, listen to business-technology podcasts in your free time or hire a virtual assistant to provide you with reports.

Of course, these are only the most common challenges business leaders confront when starting a venture, but the underlying lessons can apply to the majority of issues. Use your competitors’ strategies to break into their customer base, entice customers with attractive displays and incentives, and stay up-to-date on relevant technology that can improve customer experience and make your job easier.

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