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 Difference Between a Business Plan & a Marketing Plan

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Think of a business plan and a marketing plan in terms of a pizza, for illustration purposes. A business plan is the whole pie. A marketing plan is a slice of the pie, but a very important slice. The business plan provides an overview of every aspect of a company. The marketing plan focuses on strategies and efforts to generate sales and revenue.

arts of a Business Plan

  • A business plan typically includes: an overview of the business; a description of products or services and how they are produced; a description of the business model for the company; identification of the executive leadership and management team; cash flow statements; and charts and graphs on financial projections related to sales, costs, expenditures and more.

Parts of a Marketing Summary

  • An organization’s marketing plan is included in the overall business plan; however, it is written in summary format. Included in a marketing summary are the marketing objectives, and the strategies and tactics the company will utilize to generate sales and revenue. The marketing summary section of the business plan also gives a general overview of advertising plans that will be implemented to achieve marketing objectives and goals.

Detailed Marketing Plan

  • The complete marketing plan is a separate, comprehensive document that goes into more detail about objectives, goals and tactics. This document guides the implementation of efforts by the company’s marketing, sales and advertising departments.

    The marketing department uses the plan to align how products and services are to be positioned in the marketplace in terms of distribution channels and pricing. The plan describes in detail monthly, quarterly and annual sales volume goals that need to be reached by the sales team.

    The plan also includes a section that sets forth the communications platform for the advertising team and/or outside advertising agency to use to develop advertising, promotions and events that align with the communications messaging strategy to reach customers and clients in the marketplace.

Business Plan Audience

  • Generally speaking, the business plan is shared only with key executives within the company and external members of the financial community. It is typically written to target potential investors, stockholders and accountants. It is most often used to generate funds to provide working capital to execute the plans and programs the company has identified as necessary to maintain a competitive position and sustainable success in the marketplace.

Marketing Plan Audience

  • The marketing plan is not shared with consumers and clients, but the contents are aimed at them. The complete plan is an internal document that is usually shared only with those responsible for marketing, sales and advertising efforts. The marketing plan includes results from research that help identify tactics to communicate with customers to get them to purchase products.

    The plan includes strategies on pricing and incentives to gain new clients for a service-oriented business and increase sales volume with retail distributors. The marketing plan is an internal strategic document developed to win customers, clients, achieve sales and distribution goals, compete with other businesses and increase the company’s market share.

 How Has Technology Impacted the Global Business Environment?

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Technology has had a tremendous impact upon the global business environment. Communication, transportation and production efficiency are various areas of business which have been enhanced by the development and improvement of technology. As continual enhancements are made, the world continues to “grow smaller” and businesses have further reach than ever.

Computers

  • The most important technological development to impact the global business environment is the world of computers. There are various programs which help maintain records of inventories and shipments. Email allows for instantaneous communication almost anywhere in the world. Besides its speed, email is easily forwarded and retained. The communication in the global business environment is improved with the use of email.

    The impact of computers on the global business environment is wide-ranging and also includes the Internet, which is a useful tool for international companies. By using the Internet, companies across the world can perform research and learn more about partners and suppliers.

Conference Calls and Video Conferencing

  • Conference calls allow people in multiple locations to be involved in the same conversation. Video conferencing provides the same service, but with the added benefit of all parties being able to actually see each other. Both of these forms of communication have a definite impact on the global business environment. With either form of technology, a parent company in Norway can have a conversation with a raw material supplier in Brazil and a manufacturing plant in Taiwan. This improves communication on a global scale and enables all parties to understand specific plans and agreements.

Transportation

  • The shipment of raw materials and finished products is absolutely vital to any business, but particularly those with an international scope. Transportation technology enables a company on one continent to send its raw materials or products to another company in a different continent. Technological advancements in airplanes, cargo ships and railways allow for quicker, cheaper delivery, which impacts business by making global distribution more feasible.

Manufacturing Technology

  • Increased efficiency of manufacturing plants has a certain impact on the global business environment. By having the capacity to produce materials and products more quickly and efficiently, a company is able to produce quantities needed to supply global demand. Robotic technologies and factory lines have enhanced the speed at which materials and products are manufactured. For a company to be a player in the global business field, it must be able to keep up with demand.

Shipment Tracking

  • Corporations now have the ability to track shipments virtually anywhere across the world. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) allow accurate tracking. The implication of this technology on the global business environment is the ability to let customers know exactly where their shipments are at any given time. This technology creates secure relationships within the global business field.

How to Get a Small Business Loan

Small business loans fall into one of two types –– asset-based and factoring financing. Each loan requires different documentation and has different requirements, allowing you to choose the one that works best to keep your business going.

Decide on Loan Type

  • Asset-based loans are similar to traditional loans and require extensive documentation to show both that you are personally credit-worthy and that your business can keep up with the payment plan. Many financial institutions use the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) Loan Program to guarantee asset-based loan so there’s less risk to the lender.

    If you just need short-term funding, consider a factoring loan, sometimes referred to as accounts receivable financing to cover a cash shortage. Factoring involves selling your accounts receivables to get a short-term loan. You’ll get less than the balances owed, with the specific amount dependent on your industry and the perceived risk that any of the debts will go unpaid.

Qualifications

  • Qualifying for an asset-based loan generally requires a credit score that’s in the 700 to 800 range and up, according to Forbes. You may still qualify with a score in the 650-700 range. If you’ve been in business for at least a couple of years and can show a strong history of sales as well as reliable cash flow, you’re more likely to get the loan than a startup. You’re also more likely to get a loan if you have collateral with which to secure the loan, such as equity in real estate or an investment portfolio.

    The bank requires fewer qualifications for a factoring loan. As long as you’ve set up your business properly and have a history of positive cash flow, you likely qualify.

Documentation Required

  • Develop a full business plan for asset-based loans. The plan explains your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, also known as a SWOT analysis. Describe how your background and education help you run the business. Add financial data, including profit and loss statements for the past three years, if available. Include cash flow statements, a current balance sheet and three years of personal tax returns. Use the executive summary of your business plan to explain why you need the money and to tell your company’s unique story so the lender understands where your business is headed.

    For factoring loans, you need an accounts receivables report that shows invoices for the past 90 days. Plan to complete an invoice factoring application and include business documentation that shows your company is set up with the proper government agencies, such as state and federal tax authorities.

Poor Credit Issues

  • Without a strong credit rating, your chances of getting an asset-based loan are greatly diminished. The SBA recommends providing additional documentation as part of your business plan if your credit score is weak or you have experienced bankruptcy. For instance, include bank deposits that show you make regular ongoing deposits and have positive cash flow. Another option is to find a credit partner who has a preferable credit score who is willing to co-sign for the loan.

Home Businesses Ideas That Require Training

1. Graphic Design. Businesses always need graphic designers to help them convey information visually, through logos, advertisements, posters, websites, and the like. While it is possible to be an entirely self-taught graphic designer, most have either a certification or a degree. Other than the cost of design software, this business has very little overhead and can be done anywhere with a dedicated computer.

2. Bookkeeping. This is a perfect business idea for trained accountants who would like to work from home, although it is not necessary to be a Certified Public Accountant in order to become a freelance bookkeeper—it’s just necessary to have the background knowledge that bookkeeping courses at any community college can offer. This kind of freelance work is especially helpful for small businesses that do not need or cannot afford a fulltime bookkeeper, making it possible for you to have full time work through several smaller clients. Median salary: $34,000.

3. Home Inspection. An important part of the home buying process is having a professional home inspector go through the house to determine the condition of the building and point out any potential problems. A home inspector needs to meet the state regulations for the profession, which varies from state to state, although anyone who has worked in the construction or housing industry will have a leg up. Median salary: $52,000.

4. Massage Therapist. While licensing requirements for massage therapy can vary from state to state, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork can help any budding masseuse fulfill their local requirements. Massage therapists can either work out of their own home or make house calls with a portable massage table. Median salary: $34,900.

5. Tax Preparation. No one likes doing taxes, and they need to be paid whether the economy is booming or tanking. This is why at-home tax preparation can be a great business for anyone with a tax background, or anyone willing to take training courses. Since there are annual changes to the tax code, you will need to refresh your training each year, and you will also need to register with the IRS as a tax preparer. This is more of a seasonal business than a year-round endeavor, but it can be a great way to earn some extra income each winter/spring.

home based business ideas tax preparation

6. Doula. A doula is a labor coach that can help a birthing mother in any labor environment, from a hospital to a midwife clinic to home. Doulas are non-medical professionals who offer information, emotional support, and physical assistance in the process of giving birth. While licensing for doulas is not required by most states, getting certified by DONA International, the only certifying body for this profession, is a good idea. Doulas do have to deal with unpredictable schedules, but they easily can do this work from home. Doulas generally charge between $500 and $1000 per birth.

7. Hairstylist. If you have experience cutting hair and giving manicures, opening up shop from your home is an excellent way to start your own salon. Make sure that you follow all of your state’s requirements for doing salon care in a home, as they can be stringent.

8. Interior Designer. While you do not need a degree or certification in order to set out an interior designer shingle, it is really necessary in order to make sure you can meet the needs of many clients. An education in the history and theory of design will allow you to understand trends that you may not like, but your clients do.

7 Home Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Moms (or Dads)

Are you a stay-at-home mom (or dad)? Hoping to kick start an entrepreneurial dream or simply looking to bring in some extra income?

Starting a home-based business is a great way to do this. In fact, 52 percent of U.S. companies operate as home businesses and many of today’s biggest brand names were established by stay-at-home moms – (Dorothy) Gerber, Mrs. (Debbi) Fields, and Julie Aigner-Clark (Baby Einstein), to name but a few. But what types of businesses can grow and thrive in the home environment?

Freelancing

Perhaps the easiest form of business to delve into and operate is freelancing. Whatever your skill – writing, web design, marketing, tax advisor, or photography – freelancing affords an enormous amount of flexibility and freedom, and can be started with little cost or paperwork. Many freelancers get their start by approaching a former employer or customer who could benefit from their services, then branch out as their body of work and reputation grows.

Freelancing does have its challenges and requires discipline – you are running a business after all. Common mistakes freelancers make include not setting the business up properly and legally (getting the right permits, or licenses), forgetting to put money aside to pay estimated taxes, and not planning for peaks and valleys in cash flow.

Become a Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants (VAs) provide a wide variety of “virtual” services to other businesses including administrative, marketing and technical support from a home office. My local window cleaner, for example, uses a VA to answer his calls and manage his calendar while he’s busy on-site. VAs are growing in popularity, too, as firms look to cut costs and outsource administrative functions. If you are organized and have an administrative background, this might be for you. Start with your own connections or take advantage of the services of a VA organization or association who can help you get started and connect you with clients.

Make Money from Blogging

Yes, you can make money by blogging. I follow several stay-at-home moms who happen to be fashion and style bloggers – and it’s their business. If you can write and have a passion for a specific topic or hobby that you know will garner some attention, then this might be for you. Income generation opportunities can come in the form of affiliate marketing and advertising on your website or from companies who ask you to review and blog about their products. Look for ways to get traffic to your website through social media, search engine optimization and by getting involved in the wider blogosphere (networking with and commenting on the blogs of others in your niche).

Start a Creative Business

Whether it’s making gift baskets or offering interior design consultation services, if you have a creative streak and the room to store and create, then why not consider making money out of your talents? Get to know the market and do some planning to identify an untapped niche. SBA has several tools that can help including the Build your Business Plan tool and SizeUp a market and business analysis tool that lets you benchmark your business against competitors, map your customers, competitors and suppliers, and locate the best places to advertise.

Start a Home-Based Bakery or Food Business

Food production from a home is heavily regulated but it’s not impossible. Take Martha Stewart, for example—she famously entered the food service business with a basement-based catering company in 1976. Before you start a home-based food business you will need to understand the rules and regulations that govern the production of food for public consumption in an at-home environment. For example do you need a separate kitchen? What about product labeling? And so on.

Child Day Care

Home childcare businesses offer a potentially lucrative and long-lasting business opportunity. A home environment is often appealing to parents and once their kids are settled (and assuming you are doing a great job), then it’s likely you’ll have that business until they are old enough not to need care.

Of course, this is another regulated business and you’ll need to ensure you comply with state and local regulations that govern issues such as the provision of meals, minimum space requirements per child, and the number of licensed care workers per child.

Start an Online Marketplace Store

If you have clutter that you want to get rid of and like the idea of selling products to an established worldwide network of consumers, consider starting a business on eBay, Etsy or Amazon. You can source products to sell from junk/yard sales or charity shops. If you want to get a bit more sophisticated, then consider buying wholesale or adopting a drop-shipping model. The goal is to find products that are in high-demand and not readily available from other sources.

More Ideas

Other business ideas including a dog walking/pet care business, a travel agent, start a home-based franchise business, event planning, architectural design, or tutoring students!

How to Start a Small Business Indiana

Starting your own business in Indiana can be a great way to make more money than you would by working for a company. While there is potential for success and prosperity, starting a small business can be hard. Here’s what you need to know about how to start a small business in Indiana.

Instructions

  1. Create a business plan. To make your business idea profitable, you should create a business plan. This should include your goals for your business, expected expenses and revenue, and whether there is a need or want in your region of Indiana for the service or product your business will provide.
  2. Choose a name for your business. You have probably already given some thought to what the name of your business should be. However, you will want to check the the Indiana Secretary of State website to ensure that your name is not in use by another business or individual.
  3. Register your business with the Indiana Secretary of State. If your business name is available, you can register with the state of Indiana. This can be done at your local Secretary of State’s office, or with downloadable forms on their website.
  4. Get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. You will also need to register your business at the federal level as well. This can be done by requesting an EIN from the IRS website.
  5. Find funding to start your small business. The costs to start your business are generally much more than it is to maintain it and keep it open. This is why many individuals turn to loans from lenders or the government to get started. The Small Business Administration is a great resource for different types of funding available from the federal government. They also provide advice on obtaining business loans from banks and private lenders.
  6. Secure a location for your small business. Focus on commercial locations. Contact commercial realtors to find available properties in your area or visit with the local Chamber of Commerce for a list of commercial landlords. When selecting the location, make sure it has everything you need or want to effectively manage and run your business.
  7. Check to see if a local business license is needed for your location. Depending on where in Indiana your business is located, you may need to register with the local city or county. Contact your local government offices to determine whether a local permit is needed.
  8. File for state taxes. Before you can officially open for business, you need to have submitted forms and information to the Indiana Department of Revenue to submit state taxes such as income and withholding as well as collect sales tax on your services or products. If you are selling products in your business, you should obtain a retail merchant certificate as well.
  9. Hire staff and open your business. Many small businesses choose not to have staff in the beginning as a way to reduce costs, but you should decide whether this is best for your business.

 How to Write a Business Plan for a Flea Market 

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A successful business begins with a good business plan. Whether you are just starting to venture into the flea market business or you already run one, a constantly evolving business plan is essential to success. According to the Small Business Administration, “A business plan should be a work-in-progress. Even successful, growing businesses should maintain a current business plan.”

Preparing a Business Plan for Your Flea Market

  1. Conduct a market analysis on flea markets. Start with the geographic location of your business and begin creating a demographic profile of your customers. According to the Ohio University Fact Sheet on market research, “Demographics include age, gender, income, race, marital status, education, occupation, home ownership, number in the household and age of the home.” Gather this information by interviewing other flea-market owners and shoppers in your area. Ask friends, family and business associates for contacts to interview regarding shoppers. Conduct polls on social networks, such as Facebook. Write a summary of this information for your business plan.
  2. Write a company description. Format your business plan as you would a resume, with bold titles for each section. Compose a brief description of your business, and explain your ideas to distinguish your business from the other flea markets in your area. Include the legal form of your business. For example, if your flea market is a sole proprietorship, state that in this section. However, save information regarding your ideas for attracting and satisfying your market demographic for the marketing-strategy section. Add advertising plans for attracting new customers to that section, too.
  3. Explain your management structure. If you run your business alone, summarize your qualifications for running a successful flea market. Include experience in management, sales and customer service, with specifics about improvements you made during your experience. Supply similar details for all members of your management team, including their titles and specific responsibilities. Add information about their compensation or ownership percentages in the company.
  4. Detail your financial information. According to the SBA, “The financials should be developed after you’ve analyzed the market and set clear objectives.” Write this section using your market research. If you are just starting out, the SBA suggests that you estimate quarterly earnings statements with a budget, projected income and expenses. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, you should consult a professional accountant for the financial section, especially if you are requesting funding for your flea market. Find an accountant that specializes in small businesses to get the most accurate assessment of your financial projections.
  5. Write your executive summary. This section should be written last, but it is the most important section of your business plan. Write a broad overview of the current state of your company, the plans for your flea market and why you think your business will be a success. Include a mission statement, your business name, the location of your flea market and the products you offer. Make your mission statement a single paragraph explaining how your business will benefit your customers. You must interest investors in your flea market, so make sure your executive summary sparkles.

How to Format a Business Plan

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Your business plan often is the first impression potential investors, partners or lenders get of you and your professionalism. Not only should the contents of your plan be top-notch, but how you present the information also should impress your different audiences. Using standard business plan formatting techniques, you can create a document that looks professional and sends the message you’re serious about presenting your business idea.

The Basic Format

  • There is no universally accepted business plan format, but many follow the same format used for school papers or business reports. Your document should contain a cover page, table of contents, executive summary, the informational sections listed in your outline, a summary and an appendix.

The Different Sections

  • Your cover page should include a brief title describing what the document is and your contact information. Your table of contents should make it easy for readers to find your different sections, which can include topics recommended by the U.S Small Business Administration. These topics include an executive summary followed by your product or concept description, a market analysis, marketing plans, financial information, backgrounds and bios of key personnel, and a summary with your needs from a lender, partner or investor. Your appendix should include supporting documents that, if included in one of your sections, would make it long and tedious. Your section titles might include:
    • Executive Summary
    • Business/Product Overview
    • Market Analysis
    • Marketing
    • Finance
    • Key Personnel
    • Summary
    • Appendix

Sub-Headings

  • To break your document into more easy-to-read content blocks, format your document with sub-headings. In the market analysis section, for example, you might include: target audience, competition, barriers to entry, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In your marketing section, you might include: unique selling benefit, pricing, distribution, branding and marketing communications. In the marketing communications section, further divide your content using subheads such as: advertising, public relations, promotions and social media.

Typography & Graphics

  • Don’t try to “jazz up” your document with different fonts, colors and graphics. Pick one typeface, such as Arial, Helvetica, Geneva, Garamond, Times or Times Roman. Add different fonts of the typeface, such as bold face or italics, to highlight important concepts. Use pictures, illustrations or other graphics only when they are necessary to make a point, such as when the reader would have trouble visualizing what you’re saying without help. AVOID USING ALL CAPS, WHICH CAN BE DIFFICULT TO READ. Instead, use bold face, italics or underlining for sub-headings. Don’t put long blocks of text in italics, which also can make it more difficult to read.

Borders & Line Spacing

  • Experiment with borders and line spacing in your word processing document. Common borders are .75 inches to 1 inch from the sides of the page, with more room at the bottom to accommodate numbering. Start your page numbers where they make sense, based on your document. For example, your executive summary might be page one. If you are having trouble starting the page numbers on a page other than the cover, create your cover page and contents page in one document, then start the page you want to designate as page one as the first page of a new document. Print several pages of your document using single spacing and double spacing to see which you feel offers the best readability. Greater line spacing can help make a short document look longer.

Review Sample Templates

  • Typing “business plan templates” or “business plan examples” into a search engine will produce results that let you examine different business plan formatting and layout. You don’t have to follow one completely — consider choosing different elements from different plans to format your document.

About Social Networking

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Social networking has become very popular over the decades, and web sites based on the concept have millions of users. Some companies even hire marketing analysts to create ads for their social networking sites. Whether for personal or business reasons, the connections available through social networking can be a great benefit.

History

  • Social networking has been known to be the root of the establishment of many businesses today. Some of these businesses have been so successful as a result of social networking that they train their employees on how to socially connect with others. Netflix, an online DVD rental site, recognized the benefits of social networking and has begun to allow users to create social media profiles within their accounts. Popular television shows such as the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men,” which performed well in Nielsen rankings, thrive largely because of social networking. Analysts credited the show’s success to networking sites and the number of people posting reactions to specific quotes from episodes.

Significance

  • Students are taught in college how to socially network. They are offered classes in communication that teach them how to interact with others on business and personal levels. Students are taught about the positive impact social networking can have on a business. In conducting surveys, many businesses report that the majority of their feedback indicates that their clients found out about them through word of mouth.

Geography

  • All over the country, people on all levels seek to network socially. Social networking has become so popular that many web sites have been created to allow users to create profiles and interact with others. This has made it easier for people who may not be in the same location to connect with one another. People who even live in other states have found it easier to communicate this way instead of having to physically be where another person is.

Types

  • Social networking can occur on a business or a personal level. It can help you establish relationships that can benefit you later. In a business prospective, social networking can help you make contacts that can help you professionally. On a personal level, social networking can connect you with others that share similar interests.

Misconceptions

  • Some social networking sites have gotten negative attention and have discouraged people from continuing to network. In some cases, women have been stalked after making contact with others through social networking sites. In any situation, it is best to practice safety but not to let negative attention discourage you from networking. If you choose to social network for business or personal reasons, make sure you are taking precautions and networking safely. Do not give out any of your personal information or home address when you are first connecting with others.

How Does the Government Affect Small Businesses?

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Taxes

  • The government has a number of effects on the startup and operation of businesses of any size, but the most apparent effect the government has on small business is, perhaps, in the form of taxes. The government taxation department serves as a figurative double-edged sword to small-business owners: Tax breaks for corporations and business losses seem attractive, though they are quickly diminished when the business becomes highly profitable. Business taxes are a complex and intricate subject in which some individuals receive numerous college degrees, so it can be safely asserted that taxes are a major government effect on small business.

Grants and Loans

  • Some of the taxes collected from small businesses (as well as corporations and individuals) are actually reinvested into the small-business community in the form of grants and loans. Because small businesses account for a large percentage of the American job market, the government entity known as the Small Business Administration offers myriad financial incentives for starting and operating a business. Among the most common of these incentives are startup grants, which are particularly potent for nonprofit entities, and low-interest government-subsidized loans.

Regulations

  • Of course, the effects of government on small business are not exclusively financial. Some government effects actually dictate the terms under which a business may behave, regulating such issues as marketing to children, approval of products and services, and general public welfare. A small-business owner who runs a restaurant, for example, may find government intrusion in the form of periodic health inspections, while the owner of a staffing, consulting or other professional service may find the government requires several professional licenses be acquired before the business is allowed to operate. Because new regulations are passed almost daily — and old ones are only periodically retired — it is difficult to summarize the entire spectrum of regulations to which any particular business maybe subject; business owners who suspect their business may be prone to regulation should contact their local and state business licensing contact for specific regulatory information.

Solano’s Icon preparing for takeoff

Kirk Hawkins of Icon Aircraft

FAIRFIELD — Reinvesting in agriculture, and commercial expansion among the county’s seven cities in 2014, topped the agenda at the 32nd annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation earlier this year in Fairfield.

As evidence of continuing growth, guest speaker Kirk Hawkins, founder and CEO of Icon Aircraft in Vacaville, provided an update on the production of its initial A5 amphibious sport and recreation model with first customer deliveries planned later this year, saying that Icon eventually will have a $350 million economic impact on the region.

The first Icon Aircraft production planes are currently undergoing flight verification testing, and 20 of its A5 amphibious light sport aircraft are scheduled to roll off the Vacaville production floor in 2015, following the completion of construction at the facility in August, Hawkins told the meeting audience.

He praised Solano for its business-friendly environment.

“Solano County is a great center for sports enthusiasts with amazing terrain, nearby lakes, year-round flying weather and proximity to world-class destinations,” he said. “The region wanted us and we wouldn’t be here without you. There is a strong labor and talent pool in the area, and we can also pull from the Bay Area’s design and technology community.”

The company has received more than 1,250 aircraft deposits, representing nearly $300 million in backlog. By comparison, Tesla Motors had approximately $100 million in order backlog just prior to its production start, Hawkins noted.

“The idea of democratizing and humanizing flying for sports enthusiasts originated when I attended Stanford University eight years ago,” said the former pilot of F-16 U.S. Air Force fighters and American Airlines 767 jumbo jets.

“The Federal Aviation Administration recognized that there were barriers to flying involving extensive training and flight time experience required for commercial aviation licensing, and established a new sport pilot license as part of its general aviation category allowing the market to grow,” he said.

This new FAA rule change transformed the industry and reinvented the category, allowing flying to become a personal, recreational and lifetime pursuit. This license takes half the time, 20 hours compared with a 40 hours for a private pilot license.

“We want to scale our solution, not scale problems that may be found along the way,” Hawkins said. “That is why we’re starting production with only 20 aircraft this year, rising to an estimated 400 deliveries in 2016 and eventually up to approximately 1,000 aircraft annually in the future, as we establish global awareness and a brand presence in the marketplace.”

Hawkins said there is “deep and pervasive global interest. Some 30 percent of our customers today are outside the U.S., and there is an aviation gold rush in China equal to that in the states.”

Icon has 100 employees. The workforce is expected to ramp up to 500 within the next year and a half.
Currently, Icon is based in Los Angeles, and research, development and production is in Tehachapi. In the third quarter of this year, all these functions will be consolidated in Vacaville when construction activities are completed.

“Flying is fairly easy at the stick-and-rudder level,” Hawkins said. “There is widespread motivation to fly as part of our pursuit of freedom and adventure — which is innate to human nature — creating an emotional connection. … People have fallen in love with our product.”

Icon A5 details

Base price: $189,000
Prerequisite: FAA medical or valid driver’s license
Top air speed: 120 mph (105 knots, 194 kph)
Takeoff speed: 60 mph
Takeoff: 750 feet on land, 800 on water
Range: 300 nautical miles
Altitude limit: 10,000 feet for sport pilots
Flight plan: Not required
Mileage: 20 miles/gallon, aviation or automobile gas.
Engine: 100-horsepower, four-cylinder Rotax 912iS
Maximum takeoff weight: 1,510 lbs.
Useful load: 430-450 lbs., depending on options
Training: 14 days for A5 customers and new pilots or much shorter for those with existing experience. Training beyond the sport license will be added later. Sport pilots can fly only in daytime, with good weather conditions and clear of controlled airspace, unless additional training is received.
Cockpit: Two-seat, sports car-style with Garmin 796 GPS navigation, VHF radio, transponder, intercom and USB music port
Wings: Foldable for trailer transport (custom trailer optional)
Steering: Water rudder, retractable landing gear and Seawings platforms for easy access and water docking
Safety: Spin-resistant airframe, BRS complete airframe parachute, angle-of-attack gauge, LED landing and taxi lights

Other Solano developments

‘Substantial’ agribusiness reinvestment

The county added more than 1.5 million square feet of new commercial and industrial space last year, with wine production, storage and distribution facilities leading the way, according to Colliers International market data presented by Sandy Person, EDC president.

Solano had a 9 percent vacancy rate last year, but that is now down to 6.9 percent (with only 2.1 percent in Vacaville). Unemployment is also down from 7.4 percent a year ago to 6.1 percent in December — with Benicia having the lowest jobless rate of 3.7 percent followed by Dixon, Rio Vista and Vacaville in the 4 percent range, according to the state Employment Development Department.

“There has been a substantial reinvestment in our agriculture infrastructure. Superior Farms, the largest meat packer on the West Coast, is modernizing and expanding, and 4,000 acres of row crops in the county are being converted to walnuts and almonds yielding higher market commodity prices while also increasing land values.”

She said last year “we celebrated the Caymus Vineyards expansion, and the Suisun Valley Farm to Market project featuring a series of Class II bike and pedestrian routes connecting residents to agribusinesses.”

In addition, access to premium grapes and water fueled the purchase by Gallo of two local wineries and vineyards, Ledgewood Creek and Winterhawk.

Fairfield

A highlight for Fairfield last year was Buzz Oates Development’s new Solano Logistics Center, occupied by Saxco International and Encore Glass bottle suppliers.

The current industrial vacancy rate in Fairfield is 3.5 percent. Wine-related businesses now occupy more than 2.5 million square feet of such space, including newcomer Guala Closures.

The Wiseman Co.’s Westside Professional Center II at 2470 Hilborn Rd. off Interstate 80 was the only speculative office building built in 2014.

Suisun City

Suisun City’s Wal-Mart Supercenter is set to open this spring with 300 jobs and be a “significant” source for capturing a portion of the annual $77 million in sales tax dollars needed for city services but are leaking to other communities, according to Person.

The new $700,000 train depot improvement project, to begin construction in 2015, is designed to modernize the region’s commute center for rail and bus services.

Vallejo

The city of Vallejo has two new attractions, the Mare Island Brewing Company Tap Room in the Vallejo Ferry Terminal and the refurbished 1910 Lighthouse event venue at Glen Cove Marina.

The $3.7 million expansion and remodeling of Medic Ambulance facilities has led to an increase from 45 employees and 10 ambulances in 1993 to 220 employees and 55 ambulances today.

Last May, Mare Island Dry Dock was awarded a $5.1 million U.S. Coast Guard contract for dry dock services and ship repairs for the icebreaker Polar Star.

The city of Vallejo also released a request for qualifications (RFQ) on July 18, 2014, seeking qualified respondents to develop all or part of more than 150 acres at the north end of Mare Island.

The city received 11 responses and is currently evaluating three industrial-focused proposals.

Benicia

The Sacramento Bee’s California Traveler published a color feature on Benicia, and Diablo Magazine named the city of Benicia as the “Best of the East Bay for First Street Retail and a Late Night Spot.” NerdWallet.com also named Benicia as a “Best City in Northern California for Young Families,” enhancing the city’s tourism and residential appeal.

In its first two years, Benicia’s Business Resource Incentive Program (BRIP) helped 20 businesses achieved annual savings of over $200,000 in reduced energy costs with yearly reductions of 267 metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The city also received the League of California Cities Helen Putnam Award for “Excellence in City-Business Relations.”

In response, the Benicia City Council allocated an additional $500,000 to the program, creating BRIP2.

Rio Vista

In Rio Vista, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are considering two sites for a new Fish and Wildlife Service Technology Center, either at the Rio Vista Army Base or at a site across from the Port of Stockton. Final site selection is set to be completed by fall 2016. This center will create an estimated 160 jobs and involve some $85 million of state and federal spending.

Rio Vista was also awarded the 2014 Solano Transportation Authority Award in November for “Rio Vision.” It was a Rural/Urban Design Assistance Team project via the American Institute of Architects that involved a community workshop.

Dixon

Dixon has added a Brookfield Cottages housing community with 101 units at Parklane. Ms. Person said the Brookfield project is part of the most active building permit period seen in Dixon since 2007.

Vacaville

Vacaville continues to expand with more food retailers and other tenants at The Nut Tree: China Stix, Fuji Sushi, Pieology Pizza, Buckhorn BBQ, Firehouse Subs, Noodles & Co., The Habitat Burger Grill, Travis Credit Union and Verizon Wireless. Vacaville Premium Outlets welcomed North Face Outlet, Oakley Vault, Seven For All Mankind, Kate Spade New York, Bass Shoes, Starbucks, Express, and Toys ‘R’ Us Express. Other new businesses include Journey Coffee and Chick-Fil-A.

The incoming EDC Chairperson is Laura Kuhn, Vacaville city manager. She succeeds Immediate Past Chair Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, former CEO of the Travis Credit Union.

How to Start an Information Technology Business

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As small businesses continue to grow, many companies are choosing to forego the expense of employing a full time Information Technology department and instead choosing to utilize an information technology business to keep essential systems up and running. If you have an IT background and have dreamed of owning your own business, there are a few simple steps that will have you well on your way.

Instructions

  1. Have solid credentials. This means both knowledge and formal education. A degree in computer science will be helpful, as well as degrees in related fields of computer technology. Know what systems and software are in common use today, as well as some of the lesser known equivalents. Being able to articulate the range of your knowledge to prospective customers will help to build confidence plus also make it possible to appeal to a wider range of clients.
  2. Obtain a business license. This is usually not difficult to do. In most jurisdictions, the business license for starting up a service related business such as IT support requires filling out a few forms and paying a fee. Having the business license will provide you with a degree of legitimacy in the local business community and may open some doors as well.
  3. Set up an office. Even though much of your day will involve site visits to clients to run diagnostics on servers and related components and troubleshooting minor problems, you still need a permanent location with a phone, a desk, and a couple of chairs. The existence of the office, however humble, tells potential clients you are permanent and ill be around for the long haul.
  4. Acquire your own testing equipment and hardware. This will include portable devices you can use on site, as well as equipment that you keep at the office and use when it is necessary to bring a monitor, hard drive, or server into the office for more detailed work. Also, make sure you have the proper tools to open casings and work with motherboards and other internal components without constantly having to run out to buy something.
  5. Establish your basic fees. Many IT support businesses offer one to three packages of service for a monthly fee. The packages will specify what your normal and standard services will be each month, as they relate to maintenance, repair, consultations, and other IT related functions. Offering more than one package will make it possible to earn clients with varying ranges of support needs.
  6. Network in the community. Proactively ask existing customers for recommendations. Join the local chamber of commerce and show up at gatherings. Leave business cards posted on bulletin boards and other places where business cards are routinely collected. Find a few other small business owners in the area who are willing to pass out your cards and contact information in exchange for you returning the favor.

 How to Market a Plan for a Meat Pie Business

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Savory meat pies have appeared on menus for centuries, though their popularity has waxed and waned. By the 1950’s, boxed pies filled supermarket freezers. Over time, their presence has dwindled. If you’re getting ready to re-introduce this classic with a new twist, you’ll need to think outside the box. You’ll need an effective business plan, adequate funding and a complete marketing plan to help your line of meat pies find a new generation of fans.

Instructions

  1. Scope out the competition. Research meat pie companies and purchase samples of their products. Ascertain each competitor’s unique selling proposition (e.g., “our meat pies have no preservatives” or “we cut the fat so you don’t have to compromise your diet”). Invent a unique selling proposition that isn’t being used.
  2. Study your company’s mission statement. Use the mission statement to focus your marketing plan. Strive to make the marketing plan cover the first year of business.
  3. Determine target markets. Decide whether you will focus on general markets that run the gamut from supermarkets to small specialty stores; niche markets made up of schools, cafeterias and other institutional eating environments; or direct response marketing driven by an interactive website selling meat pies to a variety of audiences.
  4. Come up with a creative list of marketing and promotional ideas. These ideas will morph your fledgling meat pie company into a recognized brand. Work in concert with staff to develop a list of brand-building ideas.
  5. Include the placement of print ads in trade and consumer publications to your marketing plan. Ask professional cooks for endorsements and get permission to use their reviews where appropriate.
  6. Develop brochures with tear-off order forms so consumers can order meat pies for shipment or pick them up at retail shops carrying your line. Launch a website to tout company history and introduce new pie flavors to build awareness of your product mix.
  7. Stay on message and don’t eschew gimmicks. Consider jingles, slogans and catch words that can turn an obscure meat pie into a familiar food. Give your meat pies memorable names rather than just beef, chicken and pork.
  8. Keep tabs on your meat pies by soliciting feedback from consumers and retailers. Make adjustments to your marketing plan over time with this feedback. Use sweepstakes, coupons and surveys to guide your next marketing plan once you get through your first year of business.

 How to Develop a Business Plan 

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A business plan is an important factor in successfully creating a business, and is often an essential part of qualifying for funding. Business plans are written documents that describe and analyze your business, and provide detailed information about your short and long-term goals, your strategies for achieving those goals, and your company’s strengths and weaknesses as they relate to your market. A properly developed business plan will improve your chances of finding investors, and is an effective guide that can be used to keep you on track in the future. Read on to learn how to develop a business plan.

Instructions

  1. Describe your product or service. This section of your plan should be used to discuss what product or service you are selling, and should detail what benefits your product offers to potential customers. How and where will your product be manufactured? If you are starting a retail business, be certain to include information on the location of your business and on the area demographics. Additionally, you should include information about your competition, and mention any obstacles that may need to be overcome before your product is able to hit the market.
  2. Analyze your market in this section of your business plan. Include information on your customer’s needs, how you intend to reach your customers, how you plan to advertise your product or service, and how much money you intend to spend on your marketing strategy. Documentation should be provided to outline the size and growth potential of your market, and you will need to include a detailed plan showing how you intend to get your product into the hands of consumers.
  3. Identify your competition, and establish the advantage your business has over them in your target market. This section of your business plan is important to investors, and you should use it to highlight the strengths of your business and the weaknesses of the competition. However, it is crucial to be realistic and honest with both yourself and potential funding sources.
  4. Describe your organization’s structure, management, and operational strategy. This section of your plan should detail your plan for manufacturing, purchasing, staffing, and obtaining the needed equipment and facilities for your business. You should include information on how you intend to establish relationships with vendors, and should highlight the experience of your management team. Investors want to know that your management team understands the market and product, and has the experience necessary to successfully start and operate your business.
  5. Provide detailed and accurate financial information to be used by potential investors. You are required to provide both historical and prospective financial information, including income statements and cash flow statements for each year your business has been operating (three to five years typically), and you will need to present your expectations for the future and any anticipated income. Any available collateral should also be listed, as it may be a factor when you attempt to qualify for funding.
  6. Create a persuasive executive summary. This should be included at the beginning of your business plan, but should be written last. Your executive summary should include information on the history of your company, an outline of your objectives, a description of your product or service, information on your market and projected growth, an overview of your management team, and a powerful statement about the strengths of your business and why you expect it to succeed. The executive summary is primarily an outline of your business plan, but must be written in a way that encourages investors to continue reading. Limit your executive summary to one or two pages.

How Does Social Networking Help Business?

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First, there was MySpace, and then came the juggernaut Facebook, which has now virtually taken over the web as far as major social networking sites go. Many businesses have had to combat the problem of workers using social network sites while on the job, but some business owners have also come to realize that social networks can be a great help. Used correctly, a social networking site can generate new business and increase productivity.

Increasing Productivity

  • A 2008 article in “USA Today” by Jon Schwartz noted that businesses are increasingly using social networks to boost productivity by allowing employees to work collaboratively online. Employees working for large corporations with offices in different parts of the world can collaborate on various projects using social networking websites. Some companies have even developed their own internal social networks.

Targeted Advertising

  • Some businesses have learned that social networking sites can provide an efficient way to advertise their products. It’s common for Facebook and MySpace users to log in and see advertisements lining the outside column of their Internet browser. Based on information found on individuals’ profiles, companies can post targeted ads on the websites to reach those who may have an interest in the product or service they offer. Geographic location, hobbies and even a person’s career can determine what ads they see.

Providing Information

  • Social networks can also be an integral source of information about a business for consumers. Used properly, social networks can provide the essential information about a business without it having to pay for expensive advertising. Aside from networks like Facebook, blog sites are also social networking vehicles that allow for interaction between the blog’s author and readers. Some social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have internal blogging tools that allow users to share information about their companies.

Getting Opinions

  • A fourth way in which social networking websites can help business is by allowing valuable feedback from customers and potential customers. Online forums provide a way for people to voice their opinions on specific topics, and the use of surveys on sites like Facebook is common. Businesses that know the wants and needs of their customers and respond to them are more likely to survive in the long run.

The Importance of Integrating Social Media & Small Business

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Social media can play an important role in your business. It can bring you new business and remind returning customers of what you do. Social media is free to use, and you can use it to expand your business in just a few minutes a day. When you set up your social media profile, include your business contact information and a link to the company website in the About section or description area. Your social media profiles should complement your website, not replace it.

What Social Media Can Do for You

  • Social media provides the opportunity to reach millions of people at the click of a button: customers, prospective customers and potential investors. It is free marketing and free public relations. If you leverage social media tools correctly, you can spread awareness of your business and increase sales. You can also use social media to educate your customers about your products or for research. If you’re choosing between two ad designs, for example, you can put both on Facebook and ask your customers which they like best.

Picking a Platform

  • A lot of social media sites are out there — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few — and they change in popularity regularly. In two years, one may not be popular anymore. You probably don’t need a business presence on all these sites. Choose one or two that you think will benefit your business most. For example, if you’re a fashion designer, an image-driven site such as Pinterest or Instagram might be most helpful to you.

You Can Do It

  • Social media upkeep doesn’t require a five-hour marathon. Set aside a few minutes a day to post content and respond to customers. Vary the times. No one likes a social media friend who hops on, posts 18 things and disappears for a week. Think of it as a conversation with an employee; you might chat a little in the morning, pass each other in the hall and then accompany each other to your cars. Monitor the site regularly and make time to respond to any customer complaints or comments.

What to Post

  • You can do plenty of things on social media: share news about your business, post photos of new products, share stories, post surveys and run contests. The best social media strategy includes a mix. Focus on benefiting your customers. That might mean posting links to other websites so that people can learn about your product, or it might mean posting a funny video that doesn’t promote your product but that’s related to your industry, just to make people smile.

Leveraging Resources

  • Several websites stand ready to help you manage your social media profiles if you feel you don’t have the necessary time. You put in your login information and then you schedule the contents of your posts several days in advance. With the use of these websites, you can set aside 30 minutes at the beginning of the week and plan, write and schedule an entire week’s worth of social media posts. During times of national crisis, you’ll want to turn these updates off so as not to appear insensitive. If you’re overwhelmed by managing your social media presence yourself, consider hiring a part-time social media expert.

How to Find Small Business Grants for Veterans

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Many individuals who decide to start a business, or who already own a business, find that they don’t have the necessary funding to make the business grow the way it should. For situations like this, government and other types of grants are wonderful resources. Finding a grant can help your business thrive. For veterans, there are several different avenues one can take when it comes to small businesses. Below, you’ll learn how to find small business grants for veterans.

Instructions

  1. Visit the Small Business Administration. Start by contacting your local branch of the Small Business Administration or SBA. The SBA is widely recognized as one of the best resources for small business owners and is highly reputed. They keep small business owners and entrepreneurs informed about the latest grant offers and programs for small businesses. You can find your local chapter of the SBA by visiting http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html or simply visit the official website at www.SBA.gov.
  2. Visit Veterans Affairs. The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs may also be a great resource for you. While the VA does not give grants and typically handle more medical topics and situations, they can give you some great information regarding grants and opportunities. In fact, they will often provide extra assistance that allows veterans to obtain the things they need, such as grants or loans. Contact your local VA about helping you obtain a small business grant or at least pointing you in the right direction.
  3. Check Grants.gov. This website contains an up-to-date listing of all grants offered by the government. This includes business grants. Often, these grants are designated for specific individuals or people in specific regions. Using the keyword search tool on the site, search for grants for business as well as grants for veterans. Spend time going through the results and checking the details to see if these grants will be relevant to your needs. If so, you can obtain an application via the site as well.
  4. Consider Business.gov. Visit www.Business.gov and use their keyword search tool to look for grants as well. This is another site that maintains and up to date listing of grants available through the US government for individuals to start or maintain a business. However, the grants listed on this site are specifically for businesses and not other situations or needs.. Search the site to find relevant grants and use the information here to fill out applications for small business grants.

How to Use Information Technology in Business

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Information technology has been a part of business since the early days of the computer and continues to grow in importance. Modern businesses utilize information technology to increase income, reduce costs, improve productivity and handle basic tasks, such as processing telephone traffic and solving simple problems. As information technology continues to evolve, its use in the business environment will continue to grow and expand into new fields and applications. Applying IT solutions or applications to a business requires planning and research to implement successfully.

Instructions

  1. Build a data warehouse to store business collateral and function as an archive for important documents. This technology can serve as a repository for items such as sales materials, business forms, employee paperwork, tax records, accounting records or customer information. When linked with an Internet server, a data warehouse can reduce costs by allowing users to download forms or other materials, rather than storing these items and incurring shipping costs.
  2. Build a database of business important information for manipulation and reuse. For example, a database of customer information and history can be used to track purchase trends, plan for future purchases, determine cross-selling possibilities and serve as a reference for support issues.
  3. Build a bridge between traditional business functions and the Internet using information technology. For example, a web-based customer support center can provide answers to frequently asked questions, solve simple issues, provide product documentation, link to software downloads and upgrades, and offer information on new products or services. This type of service can help reduce call center costs, including labor, telecommunications charges and office space expense.
  4. Utilize social networking as part of information technology solutions for marketing, public relations or customer support. As social networking sites become more prevalent, the opportunity to utilize these services to build customer loyalty, disseminate information, market new products and find new customers will continue to grow.

 How Does Technology Affect Business Decisions?

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Technology makes information available to decision makers, helping to improve the quality and speed of decision making. Technology also makes it easier for people to collaborate so they can execute joint business decisions. Organizations use communication technology to update employees on business decisions and ensure the right people implement those decisions.

Information

  • Individuals or groups who make business decisions need rapid access to information to formulate and justify their decisions. Information can include historical corporate data, customer records, market trends, financial data and competitor profiles. This information may reside in varying databases within an organization, however, making it difficult for decision makers to get a complete picture. Investing in a networked data management system enables organizations to store data in central locations that decision makers can access via a secure network.

Collection

  • Technology can also improve the collection of information needed for business decisions. Providing network links between a central database and local retail outlets, for example, enables organizations to collect the latest sales data and make decisions based on up-to-date information. Similarly, members of a supply chain can collect and share market and production data to make more accurate decisions about production and stock levels.

Process

  • Data alone cannot improve business decisions. According to Strategic Consultancy DSS Resources, data management must reflect decision-making processes. Many information technology (IT) departments believe that their responsibility is just to deliver large quantities of data to the decision maker’s desktop. Raw data, however, is unlikely to reflect the decision makers’ needs, creating a disconnect between IT and business.

Tools

  • The decision-making process consists of a number of stages including decision preparation, decision structuring, decision making, and decision management. Data requirements are different at each stage, so large volumes of raw data are unnecessary. Business intelligence software tools are available that allow users to select, analyze and manipulate data into the form they need at different stages of the process.

Groups

  • In many organizations, decision making is a group process, particularly for a project such as new product development. Technology supports decision making in a group environment by allowing all members to access essential data via a network. Groups can also use collaboration tools such as audio or video conferencing to conduct meetings between members in different locations as a way to speed up decision making.

Social Media Advantages and Disadvantages in Business

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Using social media for your business has its advantages in cost-effective advertising and reaching new customers, but it can also take away resources and productivity as you dedicate time to your online presence. Managing a successful social media campaign can yield great results, but it takes a lot of time to build a following and manage your profiles, especially with no certainty of seeing a return. Weigh the pros and cons to see if dedicating so much time to social media is right for your business.

Cheap, Targeted Advertising

  • Social networks provide a cheap way to advertise your business and spread its name. Some networks offer paid advertising options, but they aren’t mandatory for people to find your page if you use appropriate keywords and maintain an active, consistent presence. If you do opt for paid advertising, you can choose very specific demographic options; your ads will only be shown to the demographics you specify, so you can show your ads only to people who are most likely to be customers. Most ad campaigns will only charge you if someone has clicked your ad, meaning you won’t lose money by showing your ads to people who aren’t interested.

Increased Exposure and Personality

  • Business advertising only goes so far offline or by using banner ads. Posts on social networks are easy to share, so your followers can quickly and efficiently spread any news you post. Maintaining a social network presence also helps make your business a little more personable. Talking with your followers and customers — as well as any newcomers who discover you through word of mouth or have questions — helps you seem accessible and even fun. An online presence helps you avoid looking like a faceless entity; consumers enjoy a little personality, and it can help solidify their loyalty as well as convince potential buyers to choose you over competitors.

Risks of Dedication

  • Using social media isn’t as simple as starting a Facebook page and checking on it every few hours. It takes time to learn how to properly use each network you start using, build a following, post consistent updates and interact with your followers. Monitoring and using social media well takes a lot of time and dedication to the point where it may detract from other duties. There is also no absolute guarantee of success, so you may not see a return on the investment of time you have put into setting up accounts.

Productivity and Reputation

  • The availability of social networks may be a distraction for some employees, and it could affect their productivity if they are too focused on online profiles and comments. There is also a certain risk when giving control of company social networks to employees, as much of your business’s reputation rests on what is posted on your social networks. Mistakes are instantly noticed and hard to take back, and the speed of social media makes it difficult to discuss all content being posted without taking away serious time from your other priorities.

Social Media Marketing and Strategy

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Social media marketing strategies play a vital role in any successful online branding campaign. Social media is free to implement, but requires time to monitor and deploy. Be sure you have the staff or time to devote to monitoring the messages, conversations and engagement that occurs on social media.

Target Market User Habits

  • The first element in your social media marketing strategy is to understand the target audience you are trying to reach. You need to know both who your target audience is and how they use the Internet. The social media habits of a retired golfer are drastically different than the habits of a young suburban mother. Your message and your platform must speak directly to your audience to capture their attention. Combining various platforms — such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook — is vital for a professional photographer, but not necessary for the local ice cream shop owner. Hang out online where your target audience spends their time and observe their interactions prior to engaging them in conversation.

Provide Solutions for Potential Customers

  • One of the best methods for building an audience of potential customers or readers is to provide a solution to a problem associated with your business. Merge a blog populated with solutions and information, a Twitter account that engages in conversations that educate and a Facebook page that brings new users to your sites to build a solid social media platform. Engage with customers through Twitter and Facebook by asking and answering questions directly, regardless of whether or not they are related to your product. Valuable content helps portray you in a positive manner as an expert in your field and contributes positive information to your Internet community.

Converting Visitors to Customers

  • Visitors to your social media platforms are more likely to convert to customers or loyal readers if you make a personal connection and allow them to interact directly with you. Include your purchasing options or subscription forms on your homepage and link this to all your social media accounts. Capture people’s attention with your informative content, gather their email address on a mailing list and provide valuable reasons for them to return and purchase your services.

Using Transparency and Responsiveness

  • Transparency is vital when engaging with people in the social media space. Spam radars are very strong in people who use social media regularly, and simply sending them marketing and promotional messages will turn people away from your platforms. Be genuine and authentic when engaging with people in social media, just as you would treat a customer or friend in a store or social setting. If someone posts negative comments about your product or service, respond immediately and professionally and work to fix the problem, regardless of who is at fault. Such quick responsiveness shows other potential customers you care about your customers and their user experience. Use various search and monitoring functions, such as www.Search.Twitter.com and Google Alerts, to help monitor your name or your company on a regular basis.

How to Write a Product or Service Strategy in a Business Plan

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A business plan is made up of certain sections that, combined, give an overall view of your business idea and how you intend to implement it. Those sections include a basic description of your company, industry and competition; your product or service; revenue model; target customer; marketing plan; build-out; management bios; contingency plan; and financial projections. Product or service strategy is most appropriately included in the description of your product or service and should be compared to your industry competition in the section describing your industry.

Instructions

  1. Contact your industry trade associations and read research reports and articles on your industry to learn about economic and legal trends that will affect your business in the future. Your strategy should be forward-looking in order to be effective.
  2. Research your target customer. Product and service strategy focuses partly on creating products that will be enthusiastically received in the marketplace, meet the cost and performance needs of your customers and compare favorably with your competition. Strategy also focuses on how you will market your products and services to that customer.
  3. Write a paragraph or two describing the goals and direction of your product or service strategy. Include this in your section describing your products and services.
  4. Describe how you will implement that strategy, what you will do to differentiate your product or service from a features and benefits point of view, and describe your manufacturing process and how it will support your strategy. A step-by-step bullet point list is a clear way to accomplish this description.
  5. Discuss the marketing implications and needs your strategy presents. This should be included in the marketing section of your business plan.

How to Start a Home-Based Facial Business

Unlike many business ventures, a home-based facial business has relatively low start-up costs and can be set up fairly quickly. In order to run a successful facial business, though, you need to ensure your state license is in order and obtain all necessary health, safety and business permits required to run the business out of your home.

Get Licensed

Most states require that individuals have an active state cosmetology or esthetician license to perform skin care services like facials, so make sure yours are up to date.

Exact skincare licensing requirements vary but, in general, licenses require a few hundred course hours and may need to be renewed periodically. Visit your state Department of Consumer Affairs website for more information.

Make Your Space Customer-Centric

To make your facial business successful, you need to provide your clients a relaxing, professional and soothing environment. Evaluate the space in your home and optimize it so it meets those standards. BeautyBiz notes that some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Can you designate an entrance for your treatment room that’s distinct from your home entrance?
  • Is there a separate bathroom your clients can use?
  • Do you have a separate room you can use for the facials?
  • Do you have a waiting area for clients to relax in before the treatment begins?

Get Business Permits and Licenses

There are a handful of licenses and permits involved in operating a facial business out of your home. The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that most business owners need to obtain a general business permit from their city or county, and many localities require a special Home Occupation Permit for home-based businesses.

Warning

  • The Small Business Administration notes that your city or county may require that your home pass a health and safety inspection before you start seeing clients. Contact your city’s business tax and licenses division for more information.

Protect against Liability

If you accidentally hurt a client or a customer injures themselves on your property, you could face a lawsuit. Hiscox recommends that estheticians purchase both professional liability insurance and general liability insurance to protect themselves financially.

Stock up with the Right Supplies

Buy the equipment you need and stock up on supplies. At a very minimum, you’ll need chairs, couches, tables and towels to operate your facial business. You also may want to invest in a hot towel cabinet, gowns, a facial system and storage and carts.

You’ll need supplies, like gloves, applicators, mixing dishes, jars, measuring cups, facial brushes, facial masks and eye masks to do your work. Talk to wholesalers to get the best prices on supplies.

Get the Word Out

Start marketing before your salon opens for business. Join a local chamber of commerce or beauty business association to connect with other local business owners in the area. Make flyers promoting your new salon and drop them off at businesses in the vicinity.

Create a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and an Instagram account. Start connecting with individuals and businesses through your social media outlets. You also may want to call local newspapers and media outlets and let them know that your business is about to open.