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Art, Utility and Passion Yield Sustainable Burlington Business

VtSuccess-AOGlassGlass Blowing Operation Utilizes
Vermont SBDC Advisor Support

Combining art, utility and passion into a viable business can be a serious challenge. Few know that better than Rich Arentzen and Tove Ohlander, owners of AO Glass LLC, a production glass studio in the heart of Burlington’s Pine Street arts district. Still, they decided to tackle that challenge “in order to take a passion and turn it into a sustainable business,” Arentzen said.

But they didn’t have to do it alone. Arentzen and Ohlander looked to Vermont Small Business Development Center Area Advisor Steve Densham “in order to blow glass while making a living,” Arentzen said. The company needed better planning skills and better focus on core business matters and “existential goals,” Arentzen said. They also sought a better understanding of accessing capital, business growth and business life cycle, he said.

The business owners and Densham worked together on these matters, and with diligence and time were able to overcome the challenges of practicing the dynamic craft of glass blowing while still providing value to AO Glass clients. Arentzen described his time working with Densham as “enjoyable, educational and inspiring.”

“I like to say that ‘all roads lead to Steve Densham,’” Arentzen said. “Steve’s entertaining and insightful mentorship has been instrumental in helping us transform our passion for our craft into a growing and sustainable business,” he said.

Today, AO Glass is the premier east coast manufacturer of lighting glass and design components. The company’s unique size enables it to provide clients with ample manufacturing capacity coupled with a focus on design and quality. The company ‘s capabilities include free-blown and mold-blown designs, glass casting and glass pressing. “We pride ourselves on fostering local and global partnerships with like-minded designers and clients,” the company website says. Current AO Glass clients include Ben & Jerry’s and Hubbardton Forge, among others.

“Our shop is a veritable jungle of tools, furnaces, and jigs, collected and refined over several lifetimes of mastery. In the summer, our 800 square foot workshop can reach 140° fahrenheit (60° celsius). Our hot shop is the beating heart of the Burlington arts district. Music and laughter echo from the garage door we keep wide open year round — summer and winter. The local artists and residents gravitate to the warmth and excitement of the place; hanging out, drinking coffee, and contributing their creativity,” the website says.

The Pine Street factory is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information on AO Glass LLC visit www.aoglass.com, and for more information on VtSBDC check out www.vtsbdc.org.

Go Mobile this Month with Google

By Nancy Jeng

This year, more than half of all searches will take place on mobile devices. Yet many small businesses are not optimized to serve a mobile-first audience. So how do you know if your small business site is mobile-friendly?

This month, Google releases a new tool called Test My Site to help small business owners and website managers evaluate their sites for mobile-friendliness. Just input your URL and get your mobile friendliness score. Here, we break down what mobile friendliness means, and why it matters for your business.

Google-mobile-friendly-tool-animated-gif

Mobile Design. People are five times more likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile friendly. Your site mobile design score will tell you whether your content is sized properly, legible or even viewable on mobile devices.

Mobile Speed. Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds. What slows down your mobile site? Large photos are often the culprit.

Desktop Speed. 9 out of 10 people say they use multiple screens for such tasks as booking a flight online or managing their personal finances. This means that your site should work just as well on desktop or laptops as it does on mobile (and vice versa).

In case you need a little extra help to go mobile, we’ve assembled a team of mobile experts to help answer your mobile-related questions. Join us on June 23rd at 12 noon PT for a live #AskAMobilePro Twitter chat, featuring a panel of eleven mobile experts. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or Google+ for more updates.

BIO: Nancy is the content strategy and operations lead for the Google Small Business Community, whose mission it is to help small businesses succeed online by connecting them to experts and each other. For more about Google Small Business, follow us on Twitter @GoogleSmallBiz or join the Google Small Business Community at g.co/gsbc.

#M3 Maxed Out; For Now

M3-Event

By DeRon Talley, LSBDC Communications Specialist

When you use the hashtag on your social media posts, it connects you with others who share the same conversation. However, if you use a hashtag that is dominated by a popular brand your conversation will be overlooked like a pink dot on a red wall. No need to deny it, we’ve all been there. But it’s always been those of us who have been able to go back and use the old traditional ways to communicate and mix this new digital-aged way to find the success we want.

That’s what the first-ever Maximizing Millennial Minds (#M3) Conference was all about. Using the old traditional way of communicating (which is often forgotten) face-to-face, and bringing in the millennial generation’s most favorite – social media. Together the two brought in over 60 professionals to New Orleans while over 100 more tuned in online to be a part of a professional development conference hosted by Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) and America’s SBDC.

About a third of those folks who attended weren’t quite sure what the whole online audience thing even meant. Most of them have only gone to face-to-face conferences or sat in their offices for webinars. But how do you combine the two? Leave that up to the millennials to figure it out, and we did.  (more…)

When It Comes to Email, Size and Looks Do Matter

By Steve Robinson
Director of National Organizations, Constant Contact

you-have-a-new-messageBefore you hit the send button on your next email marketing campaign, here’s something to think about – the average person received 91 consumer emails each day in 2015 and that number is expected to climb to 117 per day by the year 2019.1 These days, just getting a customer to open an email can be a feat unto itself. But not if you follow these insider tips.

Getting Noticed

How does a customer choose which email to open, open first, or not at all? The first thing they look at is the sender’s name and the subject line. If they don’t know you, it makes it that much harder to inspire them to open your message.

To encourage people to open your marketing emails, take these three critical
steps. First, ask your customers for permission to add them to your contact list. Since email marketing is permission-based, meaning you should have a green light from customers before reaching out, this clears the hurdle of them knowing the sender when the message appears in their inbox.

Second, your email address should be under the name that customers know. This is most likely going to be the name of your business, such as “Patsy’s Pastries,” though in some instances it might be your name, as in “Patsy Smith.” Just be sure to use the name the customer recognizes.

Third, use an email marketing provider to send your email. While you might have your business email account set up on Gmail, Comcast or AOL, for example, you want to minimize the risk of your messages getting stuck in a spam filter. When you work with an email marketing provider, you’re virtually assured that your messages get through because they have delivery rates of 98 percent or higher.  (more…)

Forget Your Passwords – You Don’t Need Them Anymore

By Eric Spellmann

We all hate trying to remember a thousand different passwords. And everyone is always telling us to come up with passwords that are not easy to guess!

In this video, Eric Spellmann shows how the future of security does NOT include these crazy passwords. In fact, you will achieve higher security WITHOUT having to memorize anything!

No, this isn’t fingerprint or retinal scanning. Want to see the future? Watch this video!