Local Business vs. Corporate

support local businessMany of you know how passionate I am about independently owned small businesses.  I’m a small business owner, and believe in supporting small business as often as I can.  From my coffee at the local Cafe, to buying gifts from local shop owners or artists. Even for my wedding I supported local artists for wedding gifts and favors.  It’s an important part of my life and I do my best everyday to support small business, even if it’s just sharing their events on social media to help promote another local business.

So when I hear that a corporate giant wants to come into our town and tear down a historically significant building and boot out a small local business, it gets me pretty wound up to say the least. There is a place for corporate in every town, I know this, but to put a small business out of business for corporate greed just burns me up.  This country was founded on independently owned small businesses (mom and pop businesses). The movement across the country in the last several years proves that people want this back.  Can there be a balance in a small town with corporate and small business?  I believe there can.  But we need more people to back the movement of “Shop Local”, “Spend Local”, “Support Local” for this to happen.  Making a conscious effort to keep the money we spend in our own towns, supporting our own economy. Yes there are times we have to give our money to corporate, whether shopping for paper goods, food etc.  But there are plenty of ways we can show our support to our local businesses.

So the next time you drive through your town, make an effort to spend in your town. Whether a gift, coffee, food, or service you can make a difference.  You are supporting a local business, your town, a mother, father and family.  Your money stays in your local economy and helps to keep towns thriving and growing.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to share yours with us.

Small Business Matters

 

 

 

Does the weather effect your business?

small business mattersEver noticed how weather effects your business?  Whether it’s raining, sunny, snowing or just cold.  With the change of seasons also comes a change in weather. Have you really paid attention to how this effects your business.  Do you know which seasons are your busiest and slowest times? Take some time to pay attention to how the weather effects your business you might be surprised.

During the winter months we have to contend with cold temperatures, snow and ice.  Many people just don’t want to come out during this time period.  They go to work and go home. The thought for many isn’t to go out shopping, but to get home to their warm houses.  But there are ways you can attract customers during the winter months.  Consider having special events during the winter months that will bring people to your business. Maybe a ladies night out offering wine and refreshments along with a class you might offer. Looking at the positive side to winter and maybe consider a Winter Celebration, offering hot cocoa, snacks and entertainment.  Give your customers a reason to want to come out and visit your business. Many of us go a little stir crazy being cooped up in the house all winter and are looking for an activity to get them out.

What about spring, summer and fall?  These are warmer temperatures and many people are outside doing a variety of activities. Does that mean this time will be your busy time in business?  Not always, but there are ways to ensure that. Consider offering extended hours in the evening for those that are looking to get out later in the day. Many of us are either out playing with the children, doing yard work or enjoying vacations.  Staying open later allows people the chance to get out and visit your business when they have time. Again consider have special events in the evening that may attract your customers.

Don’t let the weather and change of season effect your business negatively.  Look for solutions, be creative and you might just see it works.

Happy Autumn

Small Business Matters

 

 

HOBBY OR BUSINESS? WHY IT MATTERS

SmallBizMatters:

Great article I thought was worth sharing.

Originally posted on BUSINESS BUILDING TIPS:

hobby or businessMillions of Americans have hobbies such as sewing, woodworking, fishing, photography, gardening, stamp and coin collecting, but when that hobby starts to turn a profit, it might just be considered a business by the IRS.

Definition of a Hobby vs. a Business

The IRS defines a hobby as an activity that is not pursued for profit. A business, on the other hand, is an activity that is carried out with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit.

The tax considerations are different for each activity so it’s important for taxpayers to determine whether an activity is engaged in for profit as a business or is just a hobby for personal enjoyment.

Of course, you must report and pay tax on income from almost all sources, including hobbies. But when it comes to deductions such as expenses and losses, the two activities differ in their tax implications.

Is Your Hobby Actually…

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What We Can Learn From Convenience Store Layouts

store layoutSo while relaxing and enjoying our last day of our week vacation, I decided to watch some shows on the History Channel yesterday.  For most of the day they were playing the Modern Marvels show which I’ve always found interesting.  A great way to learn about many things we use or encounter daily.  This particular episode was on convenience stores.  I thought well lets see what it’s all about.

After watching the program it got me thinking, how can I apply that to our store.  Which then got me thinking further on how can all of us apply the way a convenience store layout is in our own business. Now I know we are not a convenience store and many of your small businesses may not be as well, but much of the information I learned can be used in any style retail business.

Layout is strategically planned by the store owners to provide a quick and easy flow and atmosphere for their customers. From the way the isles flow, to the cold beverages always on the back wall.  This layout forces customers to walk through isles to get to the cold beverage section and along the way seeing a variety of all product that may catch their attention.

Placing key items on the front counter where they check out, impulse items.  They know that customers will be more likely to grab them while waiting to get checked out if they are right there.

Layout is important in any small retail shop, whether you are a convenience store or not. Where you place your products, how the flow is from shelf to shelf in your store really makes a difference for the customers experience while shopping. The science says that when a person enters a store it is natural for them to turn to the right from entering the door.  So placing shelves to the right of your door with products that will catch their attention only seems like a novel idea to me.

In our store we have our  displays setup a certain way that flows naturally through our store.  Always remembering to allow for proper spacing between displays so not to crowd anyone shopping. Items that we want to grab attention are on a display closest to the checkout area, and sale items are usually displayed on a separate display.

Stop and pay attention the next time you walk into a convenience store or big box store and see how their layout is.  No, small businesses are not corporate, but we can learn from how they do it and tweak it to what works for us. You might just get a few ideas on display and layout that could help your store.

You can watch the full episode here.  Let us know what you think.

Small Business Matters

Need help with your social media, design or website?  We can help you.  Contact us from more information.

 

When’s The Right Time To Vacation When You Run a Small Business

smallbizmatter.org

Small Biz Matters

As we sit here preparing to head off to our honeymoon next week, we realize that closing the store for a full week could be a financial burden for us.  We’ve been thinking about it for the last few months knowing this was coming.  How will this effect our store and our bottom line.  When do you have to just say to yourself, do it and not worry?  When is the right time to take a vacation when you own a small business?  These are all very good questions any small business has when deciding to close for a time period.

One thing I will say is that we all need to take a vacation, and yes it may hurt your bottom line, but we need a break too. Yes it’s much harder as an independent small business owner to take time off then if you just worked for someone.  Many small business owners don’t have staff to cover them when they decide to go on vacation, so what do you do.  Well most of us pay attention to when our busiest season is and plan our vacations around that.  For many of us summer is a slower time so you will see small mom and pop shops closed down for a week or two during the summer months. Normally for us I would say that summer would have been a better time for us, but not this year.  We’ve had a pretty busy summer and fall seems to be heading in the same direction.  So, as this is a special occasion for us we are just going to take the risk and shut down for the week.

How do you cushion the financial hit from going on vacation?  One way to cushion the financial hit is to offer a special sale prior to leaving on vacation.  That’s what we did and it did help.  Are we at exactly the same numbers we would want to be for the month, not exactly but close enough.  Also remember that when you return you’ll more than likely get a surge of business, which can also help avoid a huge financial hit.  Either way there is always a risk, but it can be minimized if you get creative.

I will say that outside of a special occasion we would be more likely to take a vacation earlier in the year to prevent any major loss in income.  One thing we did do is inform our customers early…a month early so they had time to stock up on their needs before we closed.  Honestly that is the only thing you really can do, let your customers know and for the most part they will be understanding.  Heck we all deserve a vacation sometime.

So as we’ll be leaving Monday morning, I won’t be writing any blogs next week.  We’ll catch you all when we get back. Have a great week.

Small Business Matters

Happy Mabon

 

Facebook Insights: Are you using this tool?

You are using Facebook to engage new fans correct? Are you using the tools available to see how your business page is doing? Facebook Insights is a really great tool to help gauge your audience.  If you haven’t looked at this you really should be paying attention.  It provides valuable information about the fans that are following you.  Insights give you a glimpse of where your audience is coming from, the age range, the location and so much more.  It also allows you to see how campaigns you are running are working or not working.

Let’s start with the overview seen below.

facebook insights

 

This section allows you to see the number of page likes, post reach and engagement you are getting on your business page. As you will see at the very top of the screen these stats are from the most current week. This gives you an overall feel of how your page is doing.  You also see in the header bar that you can click over to Likes, Reach, Visits, Posts and People. You’ll want to click on each one of these sections to gain further information.

Under the Reach section (pictured below) you’ll see more stats on how many likes, comments and shares you had on the page in that week.

 

facebook insights

 

Now if you scroll down a little further you will see which posts you made have received the most feedback in the last week.

facebook insights

As you can see from the screen shot above you can get some really good detail about these posts.  The type of post you made, text or photo.  The reach it had and how many people engaged on that post. This information can help you choose better posts that will help increase your reach and engagement with your audience.

You’ll want to check every tab to get more detailed stats, but the one I use and pay attention to is the People tab (see below).  It breaks down my demographic for my page.  The age and sex of our fans that engage most on our page.  It also goes as far as breaking down from what area they are, town, state and country.  This information is very useful when running campaigns and advertising, as you can target the proper audience.

facebook insights

So as you can see the insights tool on your business Facebook page is very useful and can really help you figure out who your followers are.  Knowing this information helps you target your audience better with advertising and choosing the right posts to make.  A simple but very useful tool for your business.  So if you haven’t checked it out yet, head over to your page and do so right away.  You might be shocked at the results.

Small Business Matters

 

Moving Up In The World

clover posWell the POS System has arrived.  Let me tell you it’s been a bit of a challenge to start out, but anything new really is. Some growing pains for sure, but what a difference when ringing out a customer.  Everything is right there and easy to find. Having the ability to have the customer sign right on the screen and giving them the choice to email their receipt and save paper is another great option.  The customers are already loving the change.

What We Won’t Miss

1. For over 4 years we’ve been doing things the “old fashion way”, with receipt books.  This day and age a receipt book is consider the “old fashion way”.  I think of it as the traditional way, but let me tell you I won’t miss stacks of receipt books pilled up.

2. Copying the receipts for each of our vendors in the store in order to keep track of their sales.  Yep, no need to do that anymore either.  Just print out a end of day report and it breaks down the sales by vendor.

3. Running to the store when we notice that there are only 3 receipts left in the book and we forgot to grab one the last time we where near a Staples.

4. Large merchant fees.  Yeah won’t miss those either.  With the new system it’s just a simple as only a percentage per swipe and no month fees.  That’s saving us $50 a month in fees alone.

Our rep Melinda has been wonderful and helping us along the way with getting setup through the few bumps in the road we came across.  I think any small business like ours looking for a POS system that is functional and easy to use I would highly recommend going with Clover.  They’ve got our vote.

This was our 2014 goal, to upgrade to POS.  We even did it before the end of the year.  I think it was the best decision we made and know it will help our business tremendously.

We look forward to the rest of the year and the coming years of working with this new system and how it will simplify so many things in our business.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Peddlin' for Putnam

Peddlin’ for Putnam

Everyone always says it’s not good to mix business with pleasure, but I have to disagree. Sometimes it just what you need to get those creative juices flowing. We took the Labor Day holiday yesterday and headed to the Woodstock Fair.  First time for us, and it really was a lot of fun.  With that fun came also the chance to meet a lot of vendors that were setup at the fair as well.  Giving us a chance to see a variety of different products.  We looked at this as an opportunity to see what artists where out there in that area and meet with a few of them.  We made some good connections that would be a great fit with our store. I plan to follow up with them all this week.  So even though we got to enjoy some great fair food, listen to live music, watch wood carving demo’s and Ceremonial Indian Dance we also got to make so connections with potential vendors for our store.

After our visit to Woodstock we headed over to Putnam.  It has been several years since we visited last, but know that Putnam has continuously evolved over the last several years.  We figured this was an opportunity to see how another small town does it.  When we visit other small towns we look at everything, from the store displays, the building facades, the general atmosphere and the amount of people shopping.

Wow, has Putnam come a long way for sure.  Filled with a variety of little shops, cafe’s and restaurants.  A great vibe through the whole downtown area. Business owners seemed happy and busy. Putnam has become a destination town, with people traveling from all over to visit.  The perseverance of the business owners and town have made Putnam that perfect little town.  The one we all want to be.  So this really does help a business owner like ourselves to pay attention to what and how they are making it work.

What really caught our eye was this art intuitive that seemed to be through the downtown area. The colored bikes with planters in front of each store, along with the painted coffee cans on each sign posted really gave some vibrancy to the area. The bikes are part of a community program called Peddlin’ for Putnam, created towards the goal of beautifying the downtown area. Such a simple, but amazing way to add some color and attractiveness to the area.  These are the types of ideas that help build, strengthen and grow a community.

So while we did enjoyed our day out, it really gave us some great ideas we could use in our community.  It got the creative juices flowing.  So the next time you are out enjoying a fun day away from your business, take some time to pay attention to your surroundings and see if there is anything that will spur some ideas for your own business.

Small Business Matters

 

 

Seasons Are Changing: Are You Ready?

Smallbizmatter.orgThis coming Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer as we all know it.  No summer really doesn’t end for another three weeks, but this is what we have come to accept.  Labor Day comes, the children are back to school and the summer is complete.  The weather may tell us otherwise, but we know the shift in seasons is coming and we need to be ready for it.  As a business we know that change in season means a shift in our business.  For many us the summer season is a slow time in sales as people are on vacation.  After Labor Day everything seems to go back to normal.  So are you ready?

The change is season means we are heading into holiday season.  Yes none of us want to think about Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas this early, but if you are in business you need to.  You need to start preparing for the upcoming holiday season now.  Be prepared for the increase in traffic and sales.  So if you own a retail shop you should consider getting in orders to stock up your store early in preparation for this.

Have you stepped into a large retail store lately?  Guess what they all have the fall lines out and Halloween decorations.  I agree it seems to early and always have thought why do they start this earlier and earlier each year.  Why you ask?  Because the general public starts shopping that much earlier each year.  With everyone’s budgets tightened over the last several years, people are more apt to start their holiday shopping earlier.  Many buy a little something each week and put it aside. This train of thought is what we have to keep in mind with our own stores.

So when you are placing your next order for product for your store, or getting stocked up from your local vendors, consider padding each order.  Add two extra of each item for the next 4-5 orders.  This will give you a little padding for the upcoming holiday seasons.  I know ourselves that’s what we will be doing to help prepare ourselves for the upcoming shopping holidays.

Being prepared and ordering early will help you with the upcoming shopping season.  Don’t forget to enjoy that last three weeks or so of summer though.  Take a little mini vacation for you too.  Recharge, Refresh and get Ready.

Small Business Matters

 

 

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