#BusinessTipTuesday- National #BusinessPlan Writing Month

Writing a business plan can be a daunting task, but it is a crucial step in the process of starting a business. People wonder if it is truly necessary to write a plan before they start their business and we want everyone to know that it is! By writing a business plan you will be starting your business off on the right foot. If you have an idea you would like to turn into a viable business now is the time to get started. December is the perfect time to tackle writing your business plan as it is National Business Plan Writing month!

What is a business plan?

A business plan lays out exactly what your business is. It describes the products or services that you will sell, your target market, the production process, how it will be marketed, and much more information. It is an invaluable tool that shows both strengths and weaknesses in your business idea. Writing one will help you to know the ins and outs of your business and will help you find and fix flaws in your idea.

Reasons to create a business plan.

  1. Writing a business plan allows you to look at your business in its entirety. While writing the plan you will become even more familiar with your idea and you will see what it takes to own and operate the business. As well, you fully understand what needs to be done from start to finish to get your business running.
  2. It will force you to look at the feasibility of your business idea. While writing your plan you will be looking at your target market and recognizing whether or not there is a market for your business in your desired location. Writing your business plan shows you whether it possible for your business to succeed and flourish. Think of the phrase, “never sell ice to an Eskimo”, since that type of business is just not practical.
  3. It demonstrates to others how you plan to proceed with your business. Having a business plan will show bankers and any other investors everything they need to know about your business, and they will use the plan in their decision to provide financing. Without a business plan, it is less likely for someone to be willing to invest in your business because they do not have proof of success. Your business plan communicates your vision and without it people will not understand exactly what you see in your idea.

The Small Business Development Center is devoted to helping small businesses start, grow, and prosper. In regards to writing your business plan, we have specific guides and tools to help make this process easier. We are here to help you with your business plan, whether it be with research, answering questions, proofreading, or anything related to your business or business plan. Please visit our website for more information: http://scrantonsbdc.com/.

#businessplan #sbdc #december #scranton #sbdc #asbdc

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#BusinessTipTuesday – Accepting Debit and Credit Cards

#BusinessTipTuesday – Make accepting payment simple

With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday already behind us, holiday shopping season is in full effect! Shoppers are out looking for the perfect gift for loved ones, and in this technology driven society, people that only shop with debit and credit cards tend not to give “cash only” businesses a second glance. If you are a cash only business looking to start accepting card, but you are not sure what point-of-sale (POS) system is best for you, consider these options:

Square:  With Square there are many options. You can sign up for free and receive a reader, or there are options that allow for you to purchase a whole register system. Either way this system works with iOS or Android and allows you to accept credit cards anywhere. It is a secure system that does not store data after the swipe. As for pricing, you pay 2.75% per swipe for Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express and then there is a 3.5% plus 15¢ fee per transaction. The product in conjunction with the app allows you to send receipts, adjust for taxes, tipping or discounts, manage inventory, and many other things. With Square there is no monthly or hidden fees and no long-term commitment. Visit https://squareup.com/ to view their site for more information.

Revel: As well as POS capabilities, Revel comes with other features to help simplify business processes, including QuickBooks integration, analytics, payroll management and appointment scheduling. A standard Revel POS terminal includes an iPad, payment device, router, Wi-Fi access point, POS printer and a secure cash drawer. Revel offers POS solutions for diverse businesses, including retailers, restaurants, sports stadiums, and convenience stores. Interested businesses can get a quote from the Revel sales team by going to their website https://revelsystems.com/

ShopKeep: ShopKeep is a POS system designed for retail, restaurant and bar, and franchises. ShopKeep can be used for payment processing, inventory management, staff management, reporting and analytics and more. Shop Keep’s hardware includes iPad enclosures, cash drawers, printers, readers and other hardware to cater to the needs of modern businesses. ShopKeep offers a standard price, enabling businesses to benefit from its complete point of sale system from a low as $2.50 a day. For more information about ShopKeep, visit their website https://www.shopkeep.com/pos-system.

Vend: Vend is the United States’ leading retail POS software, dedicated to making it easy for retailers to sell to customers. Vend allows businesses to choose the best way to accept payments, including debit, credit, and gift cards. Vend offers a range of pricing structures: A Starter package costs $69 per month and is designed for a single outlet with three users. The Advanced payment costs $79 a month and is for a single outlet with unlimited users. The Multi-Outlet structure costs $199 a month and can be used by multiple users. For more information visit Vend’s website https://www.vendhq.com/us/.

The options listed allow customers the ability to pay with card, which is typically the most common way of transaction. According to creditcard.com, in a 2016 survey that asked customers what their preferred type of payment was, and using credit and debit cards for transactions made up for 75% of the responses. With that being said, opting to accept credit and debit may be a smart choice for your small business. If the numbers work in your favor, this is something that your business should consider. Especially during the holiday season, when everyone is out and about shopping, allowing for another type of payment could produce more sales and quicker transactions. After all, the goal is for it to be easy for customers to pay you for your products and services! Here at the SBDC, we want to help your business optimize transactions and produce as many sales as possible. Reach out to us if you have any questions and we will assist you with all your business needs.

credit card tip tuesday

By: Danielle Guari and Amy Simpson

 

#shopsmall #smallbiz #holidayshopping #sbdc #nepa #scranton #creditcards

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5 reasons to #ShopSmall this Small Business Saturday, November 25

SBDC smallbiz sat blue

Sitting between major holiday shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving rarely receives as much recognition as it should. Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as an initiative to support small businesses and highlight the impact they have in communities across the U.S. Year after year, Small Business Saturday helps to make holiday shoppers aware of the benefits of shopping small.

Here are 5 reasons to Shop Small on Nov. 25:

  1. Small businesses are the heart of your community. Small businesses in your community are owned by your neighbors, your son’s little league coach or a member of your church. Shopping at their stores or dining at their restaurants helps to strengthen community ties.
  2.  Support the local economy. When you shop locally, your money stays local. Small businesses create jobs, and your purchases help to support and maintain them.
  3. Small businesses give back to the neighborhoods they serve. Small Businesses are likely to have relationships with people and organizations in the neighborhood. They are often happy to sponsor events or fundraisers for the things that matter most to the community.
  4. Find unique products. Small Businesses are often home to unique items you won’t find anywhere else. Pick up unique gifts that will be more meaningful to those close to you.
  5. Enjoy better customer service. Avoid the crowded stores, cranky employees and ruthless shoppers on Black Friday. You’ll be able to enjoy your shopping experience on Small Business Saturday with personalized and memorable attention.

Help us support small businesses in our area and #shopsmall this Saturday, November 25!

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Sanderson Place Salon & Spa Celebrates Grand Re-Opening

Congratulations to Heidi Palazzari, on the re-opening of her business Sanderson Place Salon & Spa, 1805 Sanderson Avenue, Scranton PA. Thanks for letting the #SBDC play a role in your new start!

Sanderson Place Salon and Spa held ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate grand re-opening of updated salon.

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Sanderson Place Salon and Spa of Scranton welcomed the community for a ribbon cutting ceremony for its newly renovated facility on Saturday, November 4, 2017. The grand re-opening event celebrated the salons updated facilities and modernization of a trusted name in the Scranton area.

After working as a stylist at Sanderson Place for 20 years, owner, Heidi Palazzari, decided to purchase the salon in January 2016.  Since then, Palazzari has renovated the salons interior to appear more trendy and up-to-date, all while retaining the excellent service the clients have seen for the salon’s 50 year history.

“I am happy to unveil our newly renovated salon for our customers and the public to see,” said Heidi Palazzari, Owner. “The ribbon cutting and grand re-opening ceremony for Sanderson Place marks a new beginning for our business in Scranton.”

This is only the third renovation the salon has undergone in its almost 50 year history. Since purchasing the business nearly two years ago, Palazzari has transformed the salon into a modern and trendy spot while keeping same neighborhood salon feel.  “I started working at Sanderson Place when I was 15 and always dreamed that one day I would own the salon. Now I have to opportunity to run the salon and transform it into my dream,” said Palazzari. “My amazing staff has allowed me to take a step back from styling and focus on growing the business.”

The salon is located at 1805 Sanderson Avenue, Scranton PA 18509 and is open Monday through Saturday.

Sanderson Place’s newly renovated facility is hoped to attract new customers. Customers can contact the salon at 570-961-0362 or visit their website at sandersonplace.com.

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Recognizing Women-Owned Small Businesses


If Sadie Hawkins Day has taught us anything, it is that women are powerful enough to take charge, which is evidenced by the ever-growing number of women-owned businesses. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), more than 9.4 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people, and generating $1.6 trillion in sales as of 2016.

Whether it was running a lemonade stand, babysitting the neighborhood kids, or giving dance lessons, running businesses as girls built confidence in these young entrepreneurs. This confidence comes from facing the unknown and feeling the success of running an operation, even if the profits were not always astronomical. These young women carry those feelings of success into adulthood, and are more likely to want to continue with their entrepreneurial ways.

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing types of small businesses, growing nearly 60 percent in the last 20 years. To encourage this growth, Entreprenuer.com offers a few tips including finding your passion, fitting your business to your personal goals, and forming genuine connections. Women owned businesses are an important part of the economy, and it is crucial that women are encouraged to start and continue with their business ideas.

Here are a few interesting statistics on women owned businesses:

  • Women-owned businesses produce employment for more than 23 million people in the United States, or nearly 16% of the workforce.
  • Approximately 8% of the total labor force work directly for a woman-owned firm.
  • Women-owned businesses have an economic impact of nearly $3 trillion.

The SBDC has a branch specifically for women entrepreneurs known as the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center (WEC). WEC offers various programs aimed towards helping women with their business ventures every step of the way. For more information regarding the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center please visit: http://scrantonsbdc.com/womens-entrepreneurship-center/.

Amy Simpson,
B.S. Business Administration 2018
Intern
The University of Scranton
Smal Business Development Center

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#BusinessTipTuesday -Observing #VeteransDay

For this week’s #BusinessTipTuesday we are observing #VeteransDay, which is to be celebrated on November 11.  This past week was National Veterans’ Small Business Week and this past month we made a trip to the Courthouse Square to celebrate Veterans Resource Day, sponsored by the Veterans Resource Coalition of NEPA. During the event we asked many people what kind of business they would start if they had the opportunity. We heard some amazing ideas! Here at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) we are looking to help everyone with any business needs that they may have through our educational programs and no cost, confidential consulting services. Whether you have a business idea already or know you want to start a business of your own, it is important that we take a look at all aspects of starting a business. Here are just a few things to think of at the very beginning of your business venture!

First, let’s take a step back and start with business ideas… it is time to brainstorm! Is there something that you are truly passionate about? Or have you come up with an idea to solve a problem? Or maybe you have found a gap in the marketplace that needs to be filled. No matter what it is, you have to feel confident and devoted to your business idea. After all, this is like the foundation to your home; a strong business idea sets the tone for a long lasting successful endeavor.

After you have your business idea, it is necessary to conduct an abundant amount of research. This ensures that you are extremely knowledgeable about everything that encompasses your business. Most importantly, you want to make sure your idea has not already been executed. Or if it has been done, make sure you have a spin on that idea so your business stands out to its competitors. Then you must do research on your industry, market, and financial needs to name a few. There are many more necessary pieces of information to research in order to form a solid basis of knowledge for your business. Additionally, as a business owner the research never really stops, as you constantly need to stay informed. Once your business is up and running you want to stay fresh and current with what is happening in your industry.

With your research underway, the next important step is starting your business plan. This could be a daunting task, but it is definitely necessary. Here at the SBDC, we have a guide that helps you with writing your business plan and some specific tools that make this process a little easier. Our guide and tools cover everything that needs to be included in your plan. As well, our consultants are available to help with every step along the way!

There are many more steps in starting a business, but these are just a few to start off with. Taking these few first steps can launch you in to your overall goal… becoming a business owner. Whether you need help with research, your business plan, or anything else the Small Business Development Center consultants are equipped to help take your desire to start a business and turn it into a reality. With that being said, if you could start a business today what would it be? Let us know, we would love to help make your dreams come true!

Danielle Guari
Business Consultant
The University of Scranton
Small Business Development Center

 

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#BusinessTipTuesday – “The Extra Mile” Day

This week’s #BusinessTipTuesday recognizes, “The Extra Mile” Day celebrated on November 1st! Here at the SBDC we want to help you go the extra mile to make sure your business is the absolute best it can be. Every once in a while, it would be beneficial to assess all aspects of your business to ensure that they are representing the most professional and valuable business image and presence. We want to make sure that everything is covered when it comes to your business, be it marketing, employee engagement, and location, amenities, and offerings; but also, that it exceeds the expectations of your customers. We have come up with a small checklist to use, to guarantee that you are going the extra mile!

  • Up-to-Date Information: VERY important information here… keep all of your data as current as possible for your business! Whether its business cards, handouts, price lists, websites, important statistics, store hours or many of the other aspects that make up a business, it is vital to have this information up-to-date. It could come across as unprofessional if you advertise or inform customers of one thing but then realize that it is not the most current information. Imagine this scenario… a store advertised being open on a Saturday afternoon and upon arrival it is closed. This would likely cause frustration and definitely has the possibility of leaving a bad impression on the customer.
  • Social Media Presence: Everyone is on social media nowadays; so keeping up with your networking platforms is key! Posting every so often just is not enough; you will have to try and stay online and active as much as possible. Throwing together some online contests or specific weekly posts will keep people interested in your page and your business. Social media is a free way to advertise and can really help your business so use it to your advantage! Click on the link to see a few reasons as to why social media is beneficial to your small business.

Why Go Social?

  • Website Appearance: Similarly with social media, everyone is online and expects businesses to have a website. So, it is extremely helpful for a business to first have a website and second that it includes the important, up-to-date information while also catching the eye of the viewer. Also it is good to keep in mind that your business website is smart-phone friendly, since people often look at your site on their phone. In the case of online businesses, the website serves as your main point of business, so having a fully functioning and current site is of the utmost importance! The link below offers some tips on “what not to do” when it comes to your business’s website.

The Big Problem with Social Media Sites

  • Curb Appeal: If your business includes a brick and mortar location that is quite literally the first thing a customer sees upon entering the business. The look of your building will have a lot to say about your business and how you conduct it. It is not all about the physical location or building your business is in that is important, but the way the building is presented and kept. Remember, your storefront to your business is the same as the cover to a book, and we do not want a customer to judge a book by its cover. Take a look at this infographic to help boost your curb appeal!

How to Improve your Business’s Curb Appeal

  • Employee Look & Behavior: The way employees present themselves overall also has a lot to say about your business. Both their look and behavior work together to present what your business has to offer to the customer. Starting with their look, the more put together they appear, the better the impression to the customers. A clean looking uniform, hair in place, and a smile go a long way by not only making you look professional but also the business look professional. Behavior is very important on behalf of employees. Understanding the business, being kind and friendly, and willingness to help are just some of the many ways to positively interact with customers. Check out these few tips on how to ensure your employees provide top-notch customer service and make the right first impression.Customer Service Skills for Employees

Danielle Guari
Business Consultant
The University of Scranton
Small Business Development Center

 

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#BusinessTipTuesday #NationalPizzaMonth

Northeast Pennsylvania has recently acquired the nickname “The Unofficial Pizza Capital of the World”, and for good reason. In this area, there is a pizza shop on nearly every corner, so October being National Pizza month is an exciting time! But with so much competition, how can companies stand out to their customers?

Provide Outstanding Customer Service: Perhaps the most essential piece of advice. Treat your customers like royalty, because they are the reason you are in business in the first place. Because customers expect good customer service to begin with, going above and beyond will help your business stand out. Look for extras you can add to your products or services that can instantly change them from normal to memorable. Changes such as restaurants adding an entertainment portion for customers waiting to be seated during a dinner rush, 24/7 availability via text or email, and making it as easy as possible to do business with your company will have customers coming back time after time.

Be honest with your customers: Honesty is the best policy; it sounds like a cliché, but it’s necessary. If you can’t deliver by a previously agreed upon time or if something goes wrong during the process, increasing the customer’s cost, let them know immediately. It’s a tough conversation, but lying to the customer will cause them to lose faith in you and even worse, possibly spread negative comments to other potential customers. In most situations, the faster you share bad news, the more likely it is that the customer will respect you, especially if you bring solutions to the table.

Be innovative: Continuing to improve your company will keep you competitive. If your competitors are advancing and you’re standing still, you will be left in their dust. Keeping up with technology, such as joining social media, and introducing new products and solutions to problems will keep your company competitive. Remember to think outside of the box and strive to create a product or a service that everyone would desire.

Create offers that are hard to ignore: Being creative with your offers can easily set you apart from the competition. Offering a money back guarantee or a free trial of a service will make new customers more comfortable giving your company their business. If you are a restaurant, offering a free appetizer or something similar will attract customers looking for the most bang for their buck.

When the market is flooded with competition, standing out is the key to your company’s survival. Keeping up with technological changes and keeping your products fresh and innovative is vital, but more importantly, putting your customer first will ensure they return to you rather than searching out an alternative in your competitors.

pizza month tuesday

Amy Simpson, B.S. Business Administration 2018
Intern

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Congratulations Meraki Skin Care

Congratulations to Deborah Webb, Licensed Esthetician and Reiki Master on the opening of her business Meraki Skin Care at 700 E. State Street #ClarksSummit. Thanks for letting the #SBDC play a role in your new start.

2017 10 10 Webb grand opening

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How to Create a Small Business Marketing Plan

For this week’s #BusinessTipTuesday we have some great information to share from our friend Lydia Roth at Nav.com.

You’ve created a business plan for your small business, in which you laid out your vision, strengths, resources and goals for the future. Now it’s time to think about a marketing plan. The two documents will work together in helping you realize your small business’s potential. In fact, your marketing plan will build on the goals you’ve already laid out in your business plan.

Creating a marketing plan doesn’t have to be hard. The fact that a large and established business’s marketing plan may run to hundreds of pages shouldn’t intimidate you. Your first marketing plan could fill a couple of pages in an old notebook and still be effective. The saying that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” applies to every successful venture—yours included.

Let’s look at some of the topics your marketing plan should cover. Keep in mind that not every marketing plan is the same, and that some will emphasize one thing over another depending on the strength and needs of your small business. Nevertheless, there are certain fundamentals that will always apply.

Target customers

Who are you marketing to? Be as specific as possible. You’ve already covered this question in a general way in your business plan, but this is where you get down to nuts and bolts. It’s the nuts and bolts that will keep your small business together, and paying insufficient attention to them in the beginning will lead to major problems down the road.

As mentioned in How to Write a Business Plan, you may want to consider creating “buyer personas” that will embody the type of customers you think will walk through your door. Identify them in your marketing plan and make them part of your regular conversation with all employees at your business.

Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy can be broken down into two separate parts:

    1. Your pricing strategy
    2. Your promotional strategy

Your pricing strategy will identify the optimal price at which to offer your products or services. This will require a good deal of research, including competitive analysis and market demand. Don’t just assume that if your price is the lowest of all your competitors, you’ll win the most business—consider getting out there and polling potential customers to determine optimal price.

Your promotional strategy will help you allocate resources amongst advertising, sales, public relations, etc. Maybe you’ve had luck going to trade shows to sell your product, or buying online ads to drive traffic to your website. Determine what your customers are likely to respond to and what marketing channels are best for you.

Marketing Budget

As is the case with all expenses of your business, your marketing plan needs a budget. Caron Beesley writes in her article for sba.gov: “As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.).”

Every small business is different—allocate a percentage of your revenues to marketing that you think is appropriate and go from there. Budgeting is a learning process, and as your business develops, you’ll be able to better hone your budget.

Accountability

At the end of the day, even the most effective committees don’t accomplish everything in their plan. The way to get things done is to a) assign individual committee members to specific goals; b) list the definite results that will decide if a goal is accomplished; and c) create an environment in which individuals are self-motivated to succeed. Success should be rewarding and fun, failure not so much. These basic components will keep your marketing team on its toes. If you’re running your small business on your own, strictly measuring the results of every task you take on and maintaining a ruthless account of your shortcomings and progress will keep you honest and on track.

Revise, revise, revise

Five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that “in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” The same wisdom applies to the business battlefield, which is busy, hectic and constantly changing. Creating a marketing plan should be just another way of saying planning creative marketing. Your marketing plan, just like your business plan, should be a living document, and something you revisit often as your small business grows and meets new challenges with greater potential for rewards.

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About the Author — Lydia Roth serves as Content Manager for Nav (www.nav.com) , which provides business owners with simple tools to build business credit and access to lending options based on their credit scores and needs.

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