Author Archives: Dennis Smith

Growing Your Small Business Through Mobile Marketing

Mobile MarketingThe use of mobile devices is steadily on the rise and both small and large businesses should be aware of their marketing power. Consumers have moved beyond the home computer and in many respects beyond one of the original mobile devices, the laptop. In an era where people demand instant access to nearly everything, it’s important that your business be visible in the mobile space.

One challenge that many small businesses face is how to integrate and grow their social media outlets with their mobile marketing efforts. Often times consumers will search for  your products online using a their computers, but how can you ensure that you’re getting goods or services in front of them more consistently? This is where social media marketing comes in to play. By opening your business to the social media platform, you are increasing visibility by becoming part of mobile world.

Here are some benefits, tips, and advice on how best to blend social media with your mobile marketing strategy:

Mobile Expands Your Options

By limiting your business’ online presence to a non-mobile interface, you are effectively limiting your opportunities to respond to customers in a timely manner. Consumers are demanding information at a faster rate than ever and would ideally like a response to a question or comment within an hour’s time. By using your own mobile device to respond to social media inquiries quickly, you can keep all of your customers and potential customers happy.

Use QR Codes

QR codes are a low cost way of extending your digital reach and are well suited for mobile devices. If you create a QR code for your business and place it on your products, consumers can scan it using their mobile devices, taking them to a particular web page or content. QR codes are all about easy access, and can be far more effective in their ease of use than conducting an online search. There are many free resources for QR code creators, so there is no reason not to get started today!

Mobile Marketing “Sets The Table”

Most consumers are not yet willing to make on online purchase by filling out forms using their mobile devices. Because of this, think of mobile-social marketing as one more”touch-point” that allows you to connect with customers and prospects. The goal here is to let your social media outlet “set the table,” offering helpful information in a way that allows you to connect with them in a more substantial way at a later point in time.

Use The Existing Social Tools

There is no sense in “re-inventing the wheel.” Several mobile-based social media platforms like Foursquare can be integrated to work with Facebook and Twitter to spread word of your business. As an example, you may want to use Foursquare as a base, and allow Facebook and Twitter to share your check-ins so that you are spanning your social media presence and effectiveness across all three social networks. This will increase your visibility to a larger client base as opposed to limiting your business to a non-mobile online interface.

If you’ve been thinking about having a stronger social media presence, follow these guidelines to get situated on the right path to success. You may find that there are certain tricks or niches that work better for your business than others, so your social media and mobile marketing plan will, and should, evolve over time. So have fun with it, and start promoting your business in as many mobile ways as possible!

Source: Mobile Marketing for Small Business, businessinsavannah.com


Franchising – A Great Alternative to Traditional Business Ownership

Rich Wallace, Window GenieAn article by Virginia Bridges of newsobserver.com, suggests that entrepreneurs have nothing to fear when it comes to pursuing their dreams of owning a business. Most entrepreneurs have an intense passion for their area of expertise but lack the experience and knowledge required to physically start a business. Fortunately for them, that does not mean they can’t explore other options.

Alisa Harrison, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the International Franchise Association, states that franchises offer prospective owners the opportunity to go into business for themselves but not by themselves; however success is not guaranteed. Prospective owners must conduct extensive research, have enough capital to get their business up and running, and spend enough time cultivating the endeavor in order to begin seeing positive results.

According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), franchises are steadily growing in number every year by approximately 1.5 percent. This is largely due to the fact that franchises offer many advantages. Ted Zoller, a UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and the director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said franchise advantages include a template business with a predefined pricing and marketing strategy, and access to market research. He goes on to say that the biggest advantage overall is the relevance and visibility of the brand. “People know the brand based on experience with it elsewhere,” Zoller said. “So you can immediately get traction.”

Rich Wallace, 34, of Window Genie of North Raleigh is experiencing the sort of traction that franchises can provide. Wallace originally wanted to open a coffee shop but his background was in administration and information technology. This led him to explore franchising as a viable option. “I know how to manage an existing business, but I didn’t know how to get started,” Wallace said. “A franchise system was going to give me the coaching I needed and the freedom I also wanted to run my own business.”

In the summer of 2011, Wallace sought help from SCORE, which offers free counseling to small businesses. Representatives there directed Wallace to Daniel Prendergast with The Entrepreneur’s Source, a franchisor that offers business coaching and helps connect prospective owners with franchising and business opportunities. Mr. Prendergast presented Wallace with three companies and Wallace decided on Window Genie. It soon became apparent to Wallace that Window Genie was where he belonged, though he came to this realization after doing extensive research on the other two companies. As with any business, there were considerable start-up costs. For example, Wallace had to purchase all of this own equipment which included a pressure washer and ladders totaling nearly $7,000. Window Genie supplies training and most of his marketing materials though he still had to spend nearly $19,000 to purchase a vehicle and supplemental marketing items.

Wallace has really enjoyed the freedoms that Window Genie allows. He is operating his own business, hiring his own employees, and has direct access to the franchise’s experts and technicians for support. He summed up his experience by saying, “They guide. I decide. They approve.”

Franchising has satisfied the entrepreneurial appetite of this young business owner.


Source “Franchising means entrepreneurs don’t have to go it alone” by Virginia Bridges


Choosing A Bank That’s Right For Your Small Business

contract-signing-smallTrying to find a bank and lender that works best for your business can be frustrating and overwhelming. There are often several to choose from, but its important to understand that your choice can have a huge impact on your success. Here are a few helpful suggestions to make sure you’re making the right decision.

Every Bank is Different

Many think that all banks are the same – that each is just a copy of the last with a different name. While it’s true that banks share the same regulations, they are able to make several individual decisions that govern their operation procedures and form their cultures.

Each bank establishes their own policies on the types of services they offer, loan qualification criteria, account minimums, interest rates, and service charges. The truth is that each bank is very different than the next. Bank A may offer the same services as Bank B but for different fees – or maybe their fees are comparable but bank A specializes in home loans while Bank B specialize in business loans. It’s important to know this before you choose a bank so you know what you’re dealing with. Be sure to do your background research and take the time to review all your options before making a decision. Your goal is to find a bank with services and culture that are customized to fit your business, not the other way around.

Know What Your Business Requires

Before you can begin to evaluate the services offered by each bank, you must have a clear understanding of what your requirements are. Having a concrete idea of your business needs will make narrowing down banks a much easier process.

Here are some requirements to consider:

  • Checking and Savings
  • Merchant Card Accounts
  • Deposit Frequency
  • International Requirements
  • Sweep Accounts
  • Commercial Credit Cards
  • Wire Transfers
  • Payroll Services
  • Availability of SBA, SBAC, and Other Government Guaranteed Loans

Small Fees Can Add Up Fast

The fees banks charge for their services can make a big difference on their compatibility with your business. While small fees may not seem significant, over time they can really add up. Consider these scenarios:

  • Bank A charges a $25 deposit fee and Bank B charges $35. Bank A may be the smarter option for a small business with a high frequency of deposits. Over time, ten dollars here and there can eat into your profits.
  • Bank A charges a $20 wire transfer fee while Bank B has no additional fee. A business that operates internationally would most likely go with Bank B.
  • Bank A charges 1% for merchant card services while Bank B charges 2%. Any business who has a requirement for a merchant card account should think about that 1% difference. Bank A is probably the better choice.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices based on services, make an appointment with each bank to discuss costs. A business account officer will be able to answer all your questions.

Compatibility Makes a Difference

Personal compatibility and customer service are intangible aspects of each bank that can often be overlooked or underrated. If you have a good personal connection to your bank, you’re more likely to have a successful working relationship. Take note of how you feel while working with each bank. If you feel welcome and comfortable, then you have found the right place.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the community and ask other small business owners about their experiences with any banks you are considering. Personal accounts can sometimes be more informative than anything you could find on paper.

Source: sba.gov


The VERY Best of Savannah

Best of Connect SavannahThere’s really no other way to put it — it’s been a good year for small business in Savannah! This year’s Best of Savannah List on connectsavannah.com is officially out and there are several past and current clients of the SBAC. Nothing is sweeter than seeing our small business clients not only succeed, but be voted as some of the best establishments in town.

The following list of awardees have all benefited from financial assistance from the SBAC, including the SBA 504 Loan Program, Revolving Loan Fund, SBA 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program, SSBCI Loan, MicroLoan Program, and many others:

Best New RestaurantThe 5 Spot
Best Family Restaurant & Best Outdoor Dining - B&D Burgers
Best Downtown, Best Takeout, & Best CatererZunzi’s
Best CarribeanRancho Alegre
Best TapasJazz’d Tapas Bar
Best DessertsLulu’s Chocolate Bar
Best Buffet - Lady & Sons
Best Sushi - Sushi Zen
Best Neighborhood BarBar Food
Best Upscale Bar - Circa 1875
Best British Pub - Churchill’s Pub
Best Pool Hall - Congress Street Social Club
Best Chiropractic - Whelan Chiropractic
Best Bowling - Frames-N-Games (Fun City Bowl)
Best Furniture & Best Display24e
Best Boutique & Best Women’s Clothing - Red Clover
Best Children’s Clothing - Sara Jane Children’s Boutique
Best Pet Store - TailsSpin

As you can see, there are a lot of restaurant winners; people have to eat! Make sure you stop by these wonderful establishments and show your continued support for small business in the Savannah community!


The State of Small Business 2013 Conference POSTPONED

The State of Small Business 2013The State of Small Business presented by Savannah SCORE has been POSTPONED until May 30, 2013 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. We apologize for the lateness of this update, and we hope that this was not an inconvenience. Please plan to attend to listen hear some really great speakers alongside SBAC President Tony O’Reilly as he addresses Small Business Access to Capital in the Savannah Region.

Again, the conference is FREE and will take place at the Savannah Mall in the Community Room, lower level. Please RSVP online or call SCORE at 912.652.4335. Please see the list below for further details. We hope that you can make it!

SPEAKER: Michael Toma, PhD, Director of the Center for Regional Analysis at Armstrong Atlantic State University
TOPIC: Small Business Snapshot

SPEAKER: Mohsen Badran, CEO of Goodwill
TOPIC: Overcoming Barriers to Employment

SPEAKER: Susan Dober
TOPIC: Results from the survey: SMALL BUSINESS CONFIDENCE INDEX IN SAVANNAH, GA 2013

SPEAKER: Jerald Mitchell, MBA, Director of Innovation, Savannah Economic Development Authority
TOPIC: Business in Savannah

SPEAKER: Marshall Tuck, Corporate Small Business Officer at Gulfstream Aerospace
TOPIC: Gulfstream Aerospace and Small Businesses

SPEAKER: Paul Schneider, Regional Coordinator, Region 12 – United States Department of Labor
TOPIC: Work force development challenges for small businesses

SPEAKER: Dr. Susanne Toney Assistant Professor of Economics at the College of Business Administration at Savannah State University
TOPIC: How Economic Indicators Affect Small Businesses in the Savannah Area

SPEAKER: Kyle Hensel, Area Director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Savannah.
TOPIC: Securing funding with Small Business Counseling

SPEAKER: Tony O’Reilly, President of the Small Business Assistance Corporation
TOPIC: Small Business Access to Capital in the Savannah Region

SPEAKER: Rhett Mouchet, commercial real estate agent
TOPIC: ON The Move since the 80ies – Commercial Real Estate Trends

SPEAKER: Brian Johnson, Garden City’s City Manager
TOPIC: Small Business in Garden City

SPEAKER: Barbara Baycum: Occupational Tax Supervisor for Chatham County.
TOPIC: New Business Trends in Chatham Co.


Standard 7(a) Lender Training

SBA.govThe Georgia District Office and Georgia SBDC Network are presenting the Standard 7(a) Lender Training events taking place this summer as three separate sessions from June through August. These LENDERS ONLY sessions present a new training format which covers the entire Standard 7(a) loan process beginning with eligibility and finishing with the guaranty purchase. The sessions are completely free and materials are provided by the SBA.

See the following line-up for the event:

Session 1: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

  • Loan Eligibility & Underwriting, Session 1.1 (morning)
    • Targeting loan officers, this session covers size standards, loan proceeds, terms, and what the SBA looks for in terms of credit.
  • Standard 7(a) Application, Session 1.2 (afternoon)
    • A detailed look at all application forms and different submission methods.

Session 2: Tuesday, July 23, 2013

  • Standard 7(a) Loan Closing and Funding, Session 2.0
    • Targeting Document Prep personnel, this session will explain how to correctly follow the Loan Authorization as a checklist to protect your SBA guaranty.
    • This session will also cover all closing closing documents and the 7(a) Boilerplate

Session 3: Tuesday, August 27, 2013

  • Servicing and Liquidation, Session 3.1 & 3.2 (morning)

    • This session targets Loan Servicing and Liquidation Personnel and addresses servicing responsibilities and liquidation procedures.
  • Guaranty Purchase Package, Session 3.3 (afternoon)
    • This session also targets Loan Servicing and Liquidation Personnel, offering a detailed look at the 10-Tab Guaranty Purchase Package and addressing previous session materials as they relate to this request.

Although the event is FREE, pre-registration is required. Seats are limited so be sure to register on-line on the SBA Events Calendar web page before the event is full! The event will be from 10:00 am – 2:30 pm and will take place in Bryan Room of the Savannah Civic Center.


Bella’s Italian Cafe Owners Offer Familiar Cuisine In a New Location

Fioré Italian Bar and GrillThe owners of Bella’s Italian Cafe recently opened their latest restaurant in Sandfly, Fioré Italian Bar and Grill. They took advantage of the City of Savannah Loan Guaranty Program issued by the SBAC, which assists Savannah businesses with financing under the City of Savannah’s CDBG Revolving Loan Fund. Through this program, the SBAC guarantees business loans that are made by lending institutions to qualified borrowers. The lending institution was The Coastal Bank with lender Greg Marini. We are excited to see the successful opening of the restaurant!

For more information on the new eatery, read the following excerpt from a story by Kristin Davis of SavannahNow.com

For years, Bella’s Italian Cafe, located in the quaint Habersham Village, has been hailed by locals as Savannah’s best Italian eatery and has personally deemed itself “where Savannah eats Italian” — though, it may be due to Savannah’s limited options when it comes to Italian food.

It’s Bella’s or your standard cookie-cutter chain. Bella’s does have those deliciously greasy, fried breadsticks served with that herbed butter and marinara, which always kept me coming back for more — to the point where I have had to beg the waiter to please take the bread basket. You can imagine my excitement then when I sat down at the brand new Fioré Italian Bar and Grill in Sandfly, Bella’s new sister restaurant, and the waitress brings a basket of hot breadsticks, butter, and marinara.

Much like the whimsical area between 61st and 63rd streets that Bella’s calls home, Fioré joins a similar community in a different part of town. Off Skidaway Road, it joins the members of Norwood Plaza to serve the Sandfly area and to expand the Italian options to Savannahians. Continue reading…

We are so glad to be part of this wonderful success story. Let us know if there is anything that we can do to help you and your business, so that we can feature you in our next article!


The State of Small Business 2013 | Savannah, GA

The State of Small BusinessSavannah SCORE will present: The State of Small Business where reports will be issued by area experts presenting findings and information on measurable benchmarks relating to the small business community. This year’s event is taking place on Thursday, May 23, 2013 and the SBAC’s very own Tony O’Reilly will be presenting on the topic of Small Business Access to Capital in the Savannah Region. The FREE conference will take place at the Savannah Mall in the Community Room on the lower level from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. Columnist Bill Dawers will moderate the panel and lead the Q&A at the end of the presentations.

The following is a list of all presenters for the event along with the topics they will be covering:

SPEAKER: Michael Toma, PhD, Director of the Center for Regional Analysis at Armstrong Atlantic State University
TOPIC: Small Business Snapshot

SPEAKER: Mohsen Badran, CEO of Goodwill
TOPIC: Overcoming Barriers to Employment

SPEAKER: Susan Dober
TOPIC: Results from the survey: SMALL BUSINESS CONFIDENCE INDEX IN SAVANNAH, GA 2013

SPEAKER: Jerald Mitchell, MBA, Director of Innovation, Savannah Economic Development Authority
TOPIC: Business in Savannah

SPEAKER: Marshall Tuck, Corporate Small Business Officer at Gulfstream Aerospace
TOPIC: Gulfstream Aerospace and Small Businesses

SPEAKER: Paul Schneider, Regional Coordinator, Region 12 – United States Department of Labor
TOPIC: Work force development challenges for small businesses

SPEAKER: Dr. Susanne Toney Assistant Professor of Economics at the College of Business Administration at Savannah State University
TOPIC: How Economic Indicators Affect Small Businesses in the Savannah Area

SPEAKER: Kyle Hensel, Area Director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Savannah.
TOPIC: Securing funding with Small Business Counseling

SPEAKER: Tony O’Reilly, President of the Small Business Assistance Corporation
TOPIC: Small Business Access to Capital in the Savannah Region

SPEAKER: Rhett Mouchet, commercial real estate agent
TOPIC: ON The Move since the 80ies – Commercial Real Estate Trends

SPEAKER: Brian Johnson, Garden City’s City Manager
TOPIC: Small Business in Garden City

SPEAKER: Barbara Baycum: Occupational Tax Supervisor for Chatham County.
TOPIC: New Business Trends in Chatham Co.


Tips to Conduct Effective Business Networking

Business NetworkingFor many, networking at a business function is typically the last thing in the world they want to be doing. The awkward conversations, the cliques, people hovering around the appetizers. Some may feel that they have nothing of value to contribute to the event and may become situationally uncomfortable.

While some may dread having to attend such events, networking is vital to success in the business world. Laura Katz, a business consultant for the Athens Small Business Development Center, has revealed the following 10 tips for effective business networking that should make even the least outgoing person a networking pro.

  • Dress For Success. This is one of the biggest reasons that many people feel out of place at networking functions. Be sure to be dressed appropriately for every occasion.
  • Always Come Prepared. Arm yourself with plenty of business cards, flyers or pamphlets with information about your company, and a pen and paper so that you can make note of the other people with whom you come in contact.
  • Be Extra Punctual. Don’t just be on time, make sure you arrive early to a networking event. Normally, the host will come greet you, and when they do, politely let them know that you don’t know anyone at the event so that they can introduce you to people. This will allow you to become more comfortable with your surroundings and become acquainted with the other guests.
  • Be Gracious. Be conscious of the group of people that you are addressing. Not everyone wants to be approached and you should be aware of this. If two people are standing closely together, face to face, and talking, then they are more than likely having a private conversation and do not want to be interrupted. If a person is in a more open stance, enter the open space, make eye contact, and wait for a break in the conversation before introducing yourself.
  • Not Everything is About You. People love to talk about themselves. When you meet someone, be sure to ask open ended questions about them and their business, and always show an interest in their response. If you find that you have something to add to the conversation after hearing what they have to say, be sure to contribute! This is all about building a relationship and finding a connection with others in your business community.
  • Make Conversation Easy. Most people at networking events are shy and hesitant to strike up conversation with others. Take this opportunity to approach those standing by themselves and start a dialogue. By doing this, you can actually help them become more personable, while showing how outgoing you can be!
  • Create Connections. Introduce those you know to others. By connecting them together, you are facilitating the networking process. This will show that you are a good networker and someone that is a great asset at these events.
  • Mingle. It’s tempting to make a beeline right for potential clients. Isn’t that what business networking is all about? Not really. Be sure to talk to a variety of people, including your competition. It’s important to cultivate relationships outside of your usual circle. Keep in mind the law of six degrees of separation at networking events.
  • Make a Graceful Exit. When preparing to walk away from someone, be genteel. Be sure to shake their hand and say something like, “It was wonderful spending some time to get to know you.” If you genuinely cultivated a strong relationship with the person and would like to meet again, you might say something like, “let’s get together for coffee and discuss things further.” Exchange contact information, then politely move on.
  • Follow Up. And Be Intentional About It. If you made a great connection with someone or were able to offer your assistance or services, be intentional about getting back in touch with them. Always follow up promptly within two to three days with a call or email, and provide any requested information or set up a time to meet again!

There’s definitely an art to networking and cultivating relationships. However the best thing you can do is dive right in. Don’t be shy, share all of the knowledge you have, and walk away with new contacts for your business.


SBA and Savannah State to Promote Small Business Entrepreneurship

Terri Denison, U.S. Small Business AdministrationThe SBA and the SBAC work closely together to support and promote minority-owned businesses in Southeast Georgia. This past Tuesday, the SBA took it a step further by signing an agreement with Savannah State University (SSU) that states that the SBA will work closely with SSU to promote small business entrepreneurship.

SBA District Director Terri Denison, who spoke at the college Tuesday, discussed the SBA’s continued commitment to provide entrepreneurial opportunities for historically black colleges and universities, like SSU, and to support minority-owned businesses as written in the Strategic Alliance Memorandum. However she pointed out that the memorandum “is really just a formality” and that it’s time for the SBA to “roll up our sleeves and find opportunities to move forward in collaboration.”

Savannah State University Provost, Reynold Verret, is excited for the new-found passion and enthusiasm that Denison showed during her talk at the college and said that SSU is more than ready to move in a positive direction. He also stated that “this agreement an example of the faith SBA has in the coastal region.”

The main goal for these two parties is to share resources and promote small business through education, community outreach and awareness of SBA resources afforded to local minority business interests. Denison talked about how they are mainly concerned with what she calls the “three C’s;” access to capital, counseling and training, and contracting assistance. She especially noted how important the counseling and training aspect of the three C’s really is. In fact, it’s just as important — if not more so — than financing. Denison went on to say that the SBA is “extremely fortunate in the Savannah area to have great partners such as SCORE and the University of Georgia’s Small Business Assistance Corporation.”

Jacob Hicks, who was on hand to hear the talk about the joint agreement, is an SSU senior majoring in business management, and was an active participant in the Black Executive Exchange Program sponsored by the National Urban League. He said that spending time with Fortune 500 minority executives was “more than enough incentive to stay in school and get my degree.” Hicks will be graduating next month and beginning a management training program with Sam’s Club two days later. With the right resources, he is well on his way to owning his own business one day.

For companies like the SBA, SBAC, and SCORE, it’s a great feeling to know what a difference they’re making for driven young people like Jacob. Through cooperation and attention to detail, the success of a new generation of small business owners is on the horizon.

 

Source: Mary Carr Mayle for SavannahNow.com