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How Small Business Owners Can Benefit From The Next Wave Of Digital Commerce

VisaBy Michael Jabbara
Director, Global Product & Market Enablement, Visa

Last week, I had the opportunity to present at the Annual America’s SBDC Conference in Nashville about the digital trends that are changing the commerce landscape and their potential impact on small businesses. Although digital commerce is not a new trend, the ways it is continually evolving consumer behavior can present both challenges and opportunities for small business owners. From virtual reality to voice activated assistants, I presented about how digital technology isn’t just altering the way people shop but what commerce can mean. Mobile and desktop channels made the shopping journey less linear. Now, emerging platforms are poised to transform entirely the way consumers interact and transact with their merchants.

According to an IBM study on digital platforms and commerce, 80 percent of companies are implementing Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives, 70 percent are developing voice command services and 50 percent are exploring augmented or virtual reality.i These initiatives are especially appealing to millennials and affluent consumers in the U.S., two segments that quickly adopt innovative solutions that make their lives more convenient and seamless.

The SBDC members were interested in how small business owners can leverage these digital trends to better engage with their customers. Some of the examples we discussed include a neighborhood restaurant that can use messaging services and chatbots embedded in social platforms to enable customers to order via interactive texting and track their delivery in real time. In addition, local businesses are looking to offer unique and targeted loyalty programs directly to customers’ smartphones.  (more…)

Writing A Path To Success

Success Story: New Jersey

A Client’s Letter to the New Jersey SBDC at Brookdale Community College

Dear NJSBDC at Brookdale Community College:

Writing A Path To Success

I wanted to share with you my success with my writing business, Fine Works LLC. It would not have been possible without the great assistance of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC) at Brookdale Community College. At Brookdale Community College, I completed The Entrepreneur Certificate in 2010 and The Digital Blueprint Certificate in 2016 as well as having many one-on-one business counseling appointments with the NJSBDC.

NJSBDC was instrumental in turning my passion, the martial arts, into a writing business. I started publishing magazine articles over a decade ago. Last year, I used my contacts from magazine publishing to get my first book published, a martial arts book titled Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts: Winning Clinches, Takedowns, and Tactics, by YMAA Publication Center. YMAA has been publishing martial arts books for over 30 years. YMAA is selling my book on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and numerous other venues in print and eBook formats. It is being sold worldwide. The NJSBDC prepared me well. For instance, YMAA plans on using my book research techniques for marketing and reviewers as their gold standard. I was informed by the Managing Editor at YMAA, “I’ve never had an author deliver better materials.”

I continue to publish martial arts articles in magazines domestically and internationally. In the past year, MMA Uncaged, a UK based magazine, published two of my articles and reviewed my book in their magazine. Black Belt Magazine, World’s Leading Martial Arts Resource, plans on publishing an article of mine in their Oct/Nov 2017 issue. All these articles are used as marketing vehicles for plugging my book.  (more…)

Top 6 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Use CRM

Radhika Devidas
Product Marketing Associate | Zoho CRM

Small businesses offer a personal touch to their services that chain stores are unable to replicate. They have more latitude to help their customers and provide an experience unlike any other. It goes without saying that behind every successful small business is a lot of hard work and many long hours. Nothing will make being a business owner “easy,” but what if there were a product that could help a small business scale quickly through a system of customer centricity, process streamlining, and acute sales focus?

Customer Relations Management (CRM) software does exactly that. It’s why 65% of businesses opt to use a CRM system within the first five years of starting up. The evidence is abundant: CRM is a must-have software for every small business.

Zoho CRM

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Non-GMO, Pasture-Raised Pork Snack Sticks

Success Story: Missouri

Roam Sticks

John and Holly Arbuckle, owners of Singing Prairie Farm in La Plata, Missouri, own and operate a pig farm. And not just any old pig farm. Their roaming, contented pigs are literally the foundation of the first and only non-GMO, pasture-raised pork snack stick available nationally – Roam Sticks. And they expect a Kickstarter campaign to further develop the brand and recruit more pasture-based farmers.

Born into a multi-generational farm family (he’s a ninth generation farmer), John Arbuckle continued the agricultural tradition, graduating with a degree in sustainable agriculture from Fort Lewis College in Colorado. One of his greatest passions was adventuring. From working as a raft guide on the Arkansas River to climbing Aconcagua, the highest peak in the western hemisphere, and crossing the Chihuahua Desert on a donkey named Milagro, Arbuckle loved to roam the great outdoors.

Fast forward to 2010. Arbuckle settled down with his wife and two kids in La Plata, a tiny community about 15 miles south of Kirksville. An advocate of healthy eating, Arbuckle started thinking about developing a convenience food in line with his passions for sustainable agriculture and for roaming. The Arbuckles wanted it to be a product they would be excited giving to their own kids on family adventures and came up with “Roam Sticks,” because the pigs roam on pasture and the consumer can then roam with a far healthier, on-the-go snacking option.

Not that it’s been a walk in the pasture.  (more…)

Stonework Artist Navigates Business Start-Up Landscape

Success Story: Vermont

VT Success - LB StoneworkIn today’s financial climate, prospective entrepreneurs must be prepared to create a solid business plan if they expect to obtain business start-up funding. But with lenders expecting more and more concise business planning before they are willing to open up their pockets, it is becoming increasingly difficult for would-be entrepreneurs to draft a plan that lenders will accept.

Luke Bonang, owner of the recently established LB Stonework and Landscaping LLC in Weston, Vermont, learned that fact as he sought to turn his passion for stone construction into a viable business. While Bonang is an expert in high quality stonework construction, he knew he needed assistance navigating the complicated landscape of business start-up financing. That’s why he contacted Vermont Small Business Center (VtSBDC) Area Advisor Brian DeClue.

He said he was motivated to start his business after noticing a niche market for “dry stone construction of hardscapes, including walls, terraces, walkways, landscape design and landscaping needs.” “I sought help from Brian DeClue to assist me with my business plan and, specifically, the financials of the plan in order to seek a small loan from the bank for my start-up business,” Bonang said.   (more…)