There are some apps that help to enhance your business on Instagram. One such app is liketoknow.it. This fashion app lets social media influencers tag their Instagram photos with the items in the picture as well as a link to a retail partner of liketoknow.it. If a follower buys an item through the link, both liketoknow.it and the influencer get a part of the profit. This app helps to introduces Instagram users to new items as well as allows influencers to be paid for their work.

The On-Line Tutorials is a set of courses designed to help interested parties learn more about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. As individuals learn in different ways, information in each course is presented in three different formats. Pick a format and then use that throughout. The Video format is designed for people who learn best by listening to others speak; while the Multimedia format, the default in each course, provides a mixture of text and video clips. For those that prefer to read, you can simply select the text or pdf version. The tools section contains materials to help facilitate both learning and retention. To see if you have truly mastered the materials in each course, be sure to take the short quiz either as a pre- or a post-test.
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Also make sure you have a structured process for setting measurable objectives, reviewing your progress, and adjusting the objectives or setting new ones. A good way is to keep a simple monthly checklist of the most important items. All of this should be driven by your overall business plan (you do have a business plan, don’t you?), and you should use the data you collect to help you keep the plan constantly updated.


Our course starts at the very beginning with setting up QuickBooks for your business. We cover how to record your income and expenses, how to manage bank and credit card transactions and how to run financial statements. There are a total of 39 tutorials in our QuickBooks course spanning seven lessons. Each lesson has been broken down into bite-sized tutorials. Each QuickBooks tutorial includes a video where we demonstrate the concepts presented in each lesson.
If you're thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don't (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you've got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
I usually don’t provide referrals, but in this particular case it is definitely warranted. Karen jumped through hoops with multiple alternatives until we came up with a solution that provided what we needed. At one time i thought we were at a dead end, but learned that Karen continued to pound away until the right solution surfaced. If you need someone to assist up front with your SBA loan, Karen is a perfect choice.

Fundation (see our review) is another high-quality alternative lender that provides capital to franchise businesses. Fundation has some of the lowest rates and fees you can find outside of a bank or credit union, offering up to $500,000 deposited in your account within a couple weeks after applying. However, the borrower requirements are more stringent than those for other some online lenders, as you’ll need good credit, one year’s time in business, and at least three full-time employees.

5. Social Media: Depending on your type of business, you will want a social media presence. LinkedIn, with more than 380 million members, is regarded as the business site for connecting with other businesspeople and offers excellent posting features for articles and blogs. Facebook is more of a social friends site than a business-focused site, but it’s also an excellent tool for “getting your word out” to your friends and customers. Both Linkedin and Facebook allow you to set up a commercial page for your new business.
In addition to building a relationship with the loan officer, you want to find out what exactly they need to see in your business plan. Go in with your plan already written and numbers in your head so you can confidently and intelligently discuss your business model, and ask the loan officer what specifically they want to see from a business plan. Take the time to revise your current business plan to match what the loan officer wants before you go back to the bank for your actual pitch.

If you don’t have a business idea yet but you do know you want to run your business, you might start by looking at our guide on coming up with business ideas. Or, you could consider turning a hobby you have into a full-time business. You could even pursue something in which you have a lot of experience. If you’ve been working in retail for 10 years, why not consider opening a boutique?
Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
The ability to communicate effectively can be critical to landing customers, inspiring employees, and pitching to investors to raise capital. Most people are not very good at public speaking and many are even afraid of it. You must strive to overcome this fear. Consider working with a public speaking or business coach to improve your public speaking skills. Some of the most recognized entrepreneurs, such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, were known for being great public speakers.
A contract is, in essence, a written meeting of the minds. While it is typically drawn up by one party and favors the needs and requirements of that party, protecting them from most (if not all) liabilities, it should initially be thought of as a work in progress that changes and grows as each party contributes prior to signing, after which it becomes an official document. “Consideration,” whether it is monetary or a promise to do work or provide a service by a specified date, is at the root of a contract.
If you are new to franchise ownership, be sure to do your research and due diligence about the franchise system you’re interested in. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (required by law) and speak to other franchisees about the brand and the financing program on offer. Next, try to understand what your financial responsibilities as a franchise owner will be. This blog offers some pointers on this: Buying a Franchise – How to Determine What it’s Going to Cost You.
There are several loan programs aimed at helping first-time entrepreneurs set up their business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates the loan programs offered by the U.S. government. To qualify for the loan, your business must meet some criteria such as your business must operate in the United States, your business must qualify as a small business according to SBA guidelines, you must operate for profit and you should have a good credit score.

Negotiate the startup and operating costs: When you buy a franchise, there is a pretty long list of things that you need to buy before you can open the doors to customers. The cost for such items will be noted in the Franchise Disclosure Document. If you negotiate, the franchisor may be willing to absorb the cost of some of these items for you, like discounting your franchise fee.


Depending on the size of your loan, your financial statements and accounting records will be reviewed carefully by the lender. So make sure they are complete, correct, and thorough—including balance sheet, income and loss statements, and cash flow statements. The lender will analyze your cash flow, gross margin, debt-to-equity ratio, accounts payable, accounts receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared to answer questions on those topics. Consider having your accountant look over your financial statements to anticipate issues a lender may raise.
Most people spent *some* amount of money, even if it was just the cost of a $50 business license or a $10 domain name. But far more important than money was the investment of sweat equity -- taking the time to make something meaningful. Brett Kelly wrote Evernote Essentials, a guide to the free Evernote software. His initial goal was that it would make $10,000 over the course of a year. One year later, it had made more than $100,000. Initial startup costs were essentially zero.

Franchise business loans typically come with more attractive terms than you are likely to find for any other type of start-up business loan. This is because lenders consider the financial stability, business model, and previous success of the franchise parent company when reviewing a loan application. Banks and alternative lenders are finding franchises to be an increasingly attractive investment. In 2011, the SBA reported approval of $1.5 billion in 7(a) loans for franchises, up from approximately $826 million the previous fiscal year. The 7(a) loan-guarantee program is the SBA's most popular loan program.
If you own an existing franchise and are looking for working capital financing, then you’ll likely have even more options than you had when you started your business. These loans can be used to fund any business activity, such as to make payroll or to make equipment purchases. The table below shows some of the best options for working capital franchise financing and who each might be a good fit for.
Some franchisors report being approached by financial brokers--historically more interested in big deals--to put together large pools of money using SBA and private funds. These funds would be available to franchisees through the franchisors like a trust fund. Groups of smaller banks with funds to invest would contribute to the fund from all over the country.

Use your retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA) to invest in your business without having to pay early withdrawal penalties or taxes.  If you still need more money, this can be used in combination with a SBA loan.  The investment into your business may be enough that no collateral is required.  Even if collateral would normally be required, an alternative such as a payment reserve and be utilized.  Learn more about 401K business financing.
The primary disadvantage of Stock Option Plans for the company is the possible dilution of other shareholders’ equity when employees exercise their stock options. For employees, the main disadvantage of stock options in a private company—compared to cash bonuses or greater compensation—is the lack of liquidity. Until the company creates a public market for its stock or is acquired, the options will not be the equivalent of cash benefits. And, if the company does not grow bigger and its stock does not become more valuable, the options may ultimately prove worthless.

One type of financing you'll want to think twice about is a home equity loan. While you'll be personally responsible for repaying any loan your business takes out if you are a sole proprietor or a co-signer, a home equity loan carries a level of risk that unsecured debt doesn't. Your credit could be hurt if your business doesn't repay money you borrowed, but your house isn't at risk in most circumstances unless you've taken a home equity loan.

Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
Sometimes it makes sense to tap 401(k), Individual Retirement Account or other retirement funds rather than seek a loan. But rather than just taking an early withdrawal, which may be subject to taxation, you may want to consider setting up a C corporation that will own and operate the business. Then roll over money from your self-directed retirement account into that corporation’s profit-sharing plan and direct that those funds be invested into the franchised business. But this is a risky option: If the franchise fails, your retirement fund can be wiped out. Check with a professional on possible tax implications, and consider the tradeoffs carefully.
Plum Alley was founded by Deborah Jackson, who had over two decades of experience raising capital for businesses, in 2012 as a crowdfunding platform for women-run businesses that needed extra funding. In 2015, Plum Alley Investors emerged as a way to connect women-owned businesses with investors who want to invest specifically in women-run businesses. Plum Alley is unique in that their investors are dedicated to investing in women-centric businesses, and they help women gain access to the capital they need.
Qualifying for an SBA loan as a new business isn’t easy. You generally need to have a strong credit score (ideally above 680), some collateral, and a 10-20% down payment. However, a large percentage of SBA loans go to franchises because lenders can easily access loan performance data for franchises and predict the franchise’s ability to pay back the loan.
Negotiate the startup and operating costs: When you buy a franchise, there is a pretty long list of things that you need to buy before you can open the doors to customers. The cost for such items will be noted in the Franchise Disclosure Document. If you negotiate, the franchisor may be willing to absorb the cost of some of these items for you, like discounting your franchise fee.
For these reasons, many franchise owners are turning to the alternative lending space for better financing options. Online lenders are generally more lenient in their borrower requirements and they also offer a much faster time to funding than traditional bank loans, often depositing funds in your account within a week of receiving your application.
Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on Internet, digital media, and software companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, FoxBusiness, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and, co-author of Poker for Dummies and Mergers and Acquisitions of Privately Held Companies (Bloomberg), and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate and M&A partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. He has been involved in over 200 M&A transactions and 250 startup financings. He can be reached through LinkedIn.
1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:

If you want to separate your personal liability from your company's liability, you may want to consider forming one of several types of corporations. This makes a business a separate entity apart from its owners, and therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter into contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. One of the most common structures for small businesses, however, is the limited liability corporation (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership.
As you consider financing options, make sure you get the best deal overall for your business. This means you'll need to compare interest rates, repayment terms, origination costs, and whether pre-payment penalties apply. By looking at the total cost of the loan, as well as whether monthly payments are affordable, you can secure financing that works for your organization. 

Small business line of credit. Under a small business line of credit, your business can access funds from the lender as needed. There will be a cap on the amount of funds accessible (e.g., $100,000) but a line of credit is useful for managing a company’s cash flow and unexpected expenses. There will typically be a fee for setting up the line of credit, but you don’t get charged interest until you actually draw down the funds. Interest is typically paid monthly and the principal drawn down on the line is often amortized over years. However, most lines of credit require renewal annually, which may require an additional fee. If the line is not renewed, you will be required to pay it in full at that time.

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