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Eight Ways to Build Your Business Name in Your Local Community

March 14, 2018

Source: As the cost of marketing and advertising continue to rise and become out of reach for the average locally owned small business, entrepreneurs need to consider alternative community outreach efforts in getting in front of their next potential client.

Any proven marketing and advertising medium needs about 90 days in order to create top-of-the-mind brand awareness with potential consumers who come in contact with marketing and advertising pieces. The cost of an effective marketing and advertising campaign can range tens of thousands of dollars, when including a mix of print, radio, social media, direct mail, and online advertising. Most small businesses cannot afford an effective comprehensive advertising campaign long-term. On the other hand, small businesses cannot afford being seen by potential consumers.

So what does a business owner to do to get in front of people? There are many community-oriented, relationship-building opportunities within the business’s local surroundings. Here are eight methods of reaching potential customers in place of expensive advertising campaigns:

  1. One way a business can connect with the local community is to get involved in sponsoring local youth sports. Whether it is sponsoring a local team or youth league, your business can benefit from being seen in the local youth sports network. Options include soccer, little league baseball, football, softball, and basketball. Most of the time, a business’s image and name can be found on players’ uniforms, on sports field billboards, press releases, a mention by the game’s announcer, and are thanked on social media and in the media. Many parents will usually patron businesses that support their children’s interest.
  2. Hold a free seminar at local library, VFW Hall, or Senior Facility Center. The great thing about hosing a free seminar at these places is that in most cases, there is already a captive audience which can be notified about your event. Usually, these organizations will provide a monthly calendar of events for their constituents, which may have interest in the subject matter you desire to present. You will want to present an informative seminar on an industry topic you are an expert of knowledge in. Include in your presentation some facts and history about a leading concern, then present ideas and trends that are taking place to solve the issue. This is a place where you present as an expert or authority, without directly selling your products or services. In these cases, you’re providing a public service, where at the end you can hand out your contact information if anyone may have further questions or suggestions for you.
  3. Volunteer for a good cause in the neighborhood (fund drive for local fire department or first aid squad; or raise money for an individual or family hit by a devastating life event). Volunteering is another way to build a bond with the community. You can sponsor a fundraiser, or just show up to support as many of the local fundraising efforts which benefit the community. When others see that you are generous with your time and your money, it will be noticed. Whichever you give—money, your time, or both—make sure you do it from a place of sincerity, from the heart. People can spot fake intentions from across a room.
  4. Get involved in your local church, which can be a place where you can get to know others who share in the same values which you have in common. Whether it be to support their events, fundraisers, community outreach to the needy, or just make yourself available for set up and tear down of events, helping your local church can help you connect with others.
  5. Get your business listed on Manta, Merchant Circle, and Yelp, as clients for them leave reviews and rate businesses. Customer reviews and ratings rule the internet when grading a local businesses’ dedication or lack of customer service. You will want to ask your customers to leave a positive review on your Manta, Merchant Circle, or Yelp profile, after they have had a positive customer experience. Building a legion of online positive four-and-five star ratings and personal experiences by your clients can help spread the word of the great products and/or services you provide.
  6. Join a local business or trade organization. Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, BNI, LeTip, are all business-to-business environments. Joining these groups allows you to network and connect with fellow business owners and leaders within the community. These networks offer a number of opportunities, including but not limited to sourcing new vendors and suppliers, connecting with prospective clients, acts as a support system, and even provides educational resource tools to build your business.
  7. Show up to other community events and town meetings. Getting involved in local politics can either hurt or help your business. It is wise to take some time to understand the legislative climate your business is subjected to on a local, regional, and even state level. Showing up to a few meetings will provide you first hand insight to the challenges your business may face as a member of the tax paying community. Other attendees will take notice that you have an interest in the interworking of the local government, which a dialog can then be created.
  8. Write a blog of how-to tips for your clients. Public awareness and public education are methods for informing your clients on subject matters important to them. You can share how to do something or how to fix something. If you own a hardware store, you can discuss how to do a particular home project, and then at the end of the discussion, provide a parts list and a coupon for potential readers to patron your store. If you are into health and wellness, you can share recipes for healthy meals, or a fitness regimen that has helped your own health situation. Blogging allows for you to connect with potential customers by sharing your expertise from the comfort of your living room.

Most of these practices only require your time. If you are to be noticed and remembered by your local community, then you need to be proactive in providing an extra value service that is important to them. Done with sincere intention, potential consumers will take notice of your noble efforts.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who currently lends his expertise as a consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.


How Would General Colin Powell Lead if He Owned A Small Business?

March 8, 2018

Source: Every small business has its share of challenges, and each successful business owner must have an iron stomach to lead their business through times of growth or economic downturns, often making unpopular decisions for the good of all. One of the most successful Generals who ever served this country also had to make difficult choices. So, let’s entertain a hypothetical situation: General Colin Powell got bored with retirement and decided to open a small business, offering a set of products and services he was passionate about and felt would be of great service to the community. How would he manage his business? How can you apply his leadership style and methods to your business? Are you ready to take charge of your business to win over Main Street?

“Command is lonely.” Another way to express this is, “It is lonely at the top.” In business, the business owner cannot be everyone’s friend. They must be a leader. You can expect not to be liked by some of your employees, or by your competition, or even by some of your neighbors or even some of your own family, as they may become jealous and resentful of your small business success. What I have found is that most people who would be the first to complain they have less than someone else, are usually the last people to take risk and responsibility for their own situation. They are also the most unlikely to ever own a small business venture and would rather criticize others from the cheap seats and sidelines.

As the leader at the top, your business will require you to put in the time investment when no others will. That means staying late to serve a customer or to clean your store front. That means giving up doing the “normal things” with family and friends when you need to fill in for an employee who just called out sick. It means spending extra time beyond the normal business hours to take care of the business paperwork and accounting or marketing functions. As a business leader you must accept the idea of being an army of one when everyone else has gone home for the day.

General Powell once said, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” How does that apply to small business ownership? A small business owner must make unpopular choices that may not sit well with employees. A business owner may decide to set hours that are designed to cater to their clientele, which may mean staying open late on weekdays or open on weekends, when most people would rather be home or out with friends and family. When a small business owner sets the schedule, someone is assigned hours they are required to work that may not be popular. The business is being responsible by recognizing its clients’ needs and accommodating them by the hours of operation the business is open.

Another example that can be applicable to General Powell’s quote is when dealing with a difficult customer. As a business owner, it is not always possible to satisfy the demands of a client. Say you own a hardware store, and a potential customer walks in the door. They desire to purchase an item, but demand you provide the item at the same price or lower price as a big box retailer down the street. You explain your position of why your price has already been set. You take the time out to educate the potential customer about the higher quality and value your store offers; and yet the potential client begins to argue with you, voicing their demands to the point of shouting at the sales counter. In some cases, you must stand your ground if you believe in the value you offer, and not compromise on your position, even if it pisses off the potential customer who never stepped foot in your store before and may never return.

General Powell also shared, “Keep looking below the surface of appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so, because you might not like what you find.” Basically, never stop in your journey in improving your business. There is always room for improvement. If a business is not looking to improve itself, or looking to grow, it will begin to fail and die. A business owner can never become complacent and think they are on top, if they do, the advantage automatically will be given to the competition. A business owner must always stay hungry and be in search of new methods or practices that improve the profitability and branding of their business image. I have found that every small business has one area of business competency which lags behind the rest of the operations and functions of that business, and to not go back and improve these areas when resources may be abundant, creates an internal risk.

Also, “Have fun with your command.” This means playing hard when you have earned it. Never forget the passion that was the reason why you went into business for yourself. Look for the joy and celebrate the joy of owning your own business enterprise. Every once in a while, sit back and enjoy the rewards of your efforts, even if it’s in the small things. Remember, when you enjoy what you are doing, it no longer becomes work—it is play.

Most of all, General Colin Powell believes, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” The direction of any organization will trend toward where the attitude of the people involved take it. If the leader of the business is always looking forward, even in difficult times, their influence can spread quickly to give hope throughout the business. On the flip side of the coin, the sour outlook of any employee or manager can have a devastating effect on the productivity of the organization. It only takes one sour apple to poison the entire situation. A positive attitude can uplift employees when the message is reflected that the business and its leaders are capable.

So, how do you think General Powell would run his business? Do you think he would operate it like an army, ready to serve its clients at any moment? Would his employees be ready in a moment’s notice to meet their objectives? Would his business be the well-oiled machine you can set your watch to? If he ran his business like he did the armed forces, you can count on it.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.



Who are the Eco-Warriors?

February 26, 2018

Source: As there is more public awareness and public education about environmental concerns related to fresh drinking water supplies, air pollution, and what occurs on land, local advocacy continues to grow to protect our communities from these threats. So, who is fighting for the planet? We take a look at some of the non-profit groups that fight on the side of a cleaner environment.

We know they are out there. Occasionally, one of their spokespersons are quoted for an article related to a battle with contributors to water, air, or soil pollution. They are photographed and filmed during their rallies and events as the opposition to Big Energy, Big Oil, Big Industrial Machine, and bad political policy. Their fight is beyond the newspaper headings and courtrooms. They fight for the environment, for clean water, clean air, and land conservation. So, who are they? They are the Eco-Warriors, a category of organizations that from around the world stand up for environmental justice and the people whom which pollution effects.

The Sierra Club is one of the first environmental working groups ever established to tackle threats to our land, air, and water. Based in Oakland, California, the Sierra Club has extensions in every state. The Sierra Club was originally founded by the legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892. They are one of the largest of the Eco-Warrior Organizations, having a membership reaching over three million people. They lay claim to some of the most important environmental legislation including their assistance in the passing of The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The Sierra Club is currently led by Executive Director Michael Brune, and his Executive Team.

Friends of the Earth are led by Erich Pica, president, who has been working on behalf of the environment for decades. Friends of the Earth utilizes a mix of strategies in their mission to fight on behalf of the environment, including advocacy campaigning, instigating lawsuits, rallies and events, and organizing members on the ground. Friends of the Earth have been around for almost 50 years. With offices in both Washington, D.C. and Berkeley, California, Friends of the Earth campaigns on local, state, and federal levels, on issues related to fossil fuel use reduction, standing up for the Rain Forest, advocating for organic and chemical free farming, and advocating for protection from corporate and industrial polluters.

When the political policy does not match the needs of the environment, the first in Washington, D.C. to take notice is the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC is on the front line of the environmental policy making debate. Combining the power of skilled and trained law professionals and its one million plus membership, the NRDC leverages their knowledge, capital, relationships, and membership to speak up and act on behalf of the environment, clean water, clean air, and proper use of the ground under our feet. Since 1970, the NRDC has addressed concerns in the areas of climate change/global warming, clean air, energy and transportation, food and agriculture, health and environment, environmental justice, urban solutions, and sustainability, while also having an eye to the worldwide stage in international environmental battlefront. Rhea Shu is currently the NRDC President.

Earth Justice headquartered in San Francisco, California, is led by Trip Van Noppen, the organization’s president. Earth Justice puts the tool of the law in the hands of its membership and advocacy groups; in challenging private, commercial, and government entities accountable to the law when they infringe on the rights of mother earth. They believe in standing up for the wild (animals and plants); healthy communities and the people within those communities; clean energy (including renewable energy sources) and a healthy climate. Earth Justice began their journey in 1965 when a group of attorneys, passionate about the environment, began to challenge the courts in the rights of the people for a clean and healthy environment. In many cases, Earth Justice will partner with other environmental working groups to address issues of coal ash, fracking, pesticides, salmon, and wolves. With over 400 cases on deck, Earth Justice is currently leading the way to bring justice to the planet is the non-profit organization founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, whose main purpose is to provide access to clean drinking water, sanitation, and education for impoverished communities, villages, and in developing countries. partners with local organizers on the ground to establish new freshwater wells and provides education to communities on how to better manage their new-found resources. Based in Kansas City, has contributed to the improvement of lives of people around the globe including in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean Islands. has been able to provide over nine million people with access to safe and clean water and sanitation, while helping communities institute practices that lessen their environmental impact. prides itself on the fact most of its work and impact is conducted and seen in the field where people need the most help.

The World Green Energy Symposium (WGES), directed by Professor Robert Gallagher, takes a different approach to solving environmental issues. The WGES gathers many brilliant minds together in one hall, including innovators, policy makers, financiers, community activists, educators, inventors, elected officials, green enthusiasts, and eco-warriors, to discuss the issues at stake and share solutions in mitigating problems related to mother earth. From energy generation and usage, to green tech innovation; from regulation and policy, to new ideas and rule-making, WGES has offered this cross-market dialog, resulting in real-time solutions being put to work in the field. Each year, the WGES honors one entity that stands out among the rest for their work, innovation, and achievements on behalf of the environment. The NOVA Award has been deemed the Oscar of the Green Community, and has been awarded to schools of thought, companies, and government agencies that have championed their ideas from concept to finished product in making a difference.

Clean Water Action, with chapters in over fourteen states, is one of the leading advocacy working groups in pitching for clean drinking water, and aims to protect natural water sources, land, and air. Since 1972, Clean Water Action has championed for the environment, cleaner communities, and regulation that puts mother earth back at the helm. In recent history, Clean Water Action has focused their efforts on fighting the practice of fracking for oil and gas, to keep toxic chemicals and pollutants out of waterways, lakes, streams, and rivers, and to build a future of clean energy and water usage. Clean Water Action has been aggressive and very vocal in the State of New Jersey, which is highest on the EPA’s list for having the most superfund or brownfield sites. Led by Robert Wendelgass, Clean Water Action has their main office in Washington, D.C.

Green America, based in Washington, D.C., is led by Alisa Gravitz, which has been on the side of the environment for decades. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power, the strength of the consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America focuses on climate change, food production, finance and green investments, labor, social justice, and green living. Green America has gotten some attention in the last six months, as Green America has brought to light the infringement of the Back Forty Mine, which is beginning to threaten the sacred Menominee River, a vital source of clean fresh drinking water to over 35 million people, as it feeds into the Great Lakes.

There are many more Eco-Warriors out there, which look to protect nature’s wildlife and national treasures, working on behalf of the planet. Remember, we only get one planet, so we must help Mother Earth win the fight.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.

Moringa Adds a Healthy Kick to Home Cooking

February 20, 2018

I love all aspects of food—cooking, trying out new foods, but mostly sharing recipes and food prepared by me. Preparing food for oneself, in my humble opinion, is the ultimate act of self-love. And preparing food for others is an expression of your love for them.

As a holistic doctor, I quickly realized that cooking for oneself is going to become an important aspect of my patients’ healing and recovery. However, I found that as a society, for decades, we have devalued the time and effort one needs to spend in our kitchens. For millennia, the main goal of any species, including ours, was centered around food procurement. But this seems to have changed, especially with industrialization of food, where we have been led to believe that ‘Franken-foods’ can replace the natural foods that our species depended on.

So without further delay, let me share a couple of recipes using the humble, yet versatile and very healthy newest superfood on the block—moringa. Growing up in India, moringa leaves and pods were featured regularly in my mother’s kitchen.; not only because we all loved it, but because we had a tree in our courtyard. When in a pinch, I would go to our terrace, lean over the 3-foot parapet wall, grab a branch and pluck the vegetables (green, slim pods that are typically 12 to 18 inches long) or the fresh, green leaves. The pods need to be just ripe. The overripe ones become too hard, dry and stringy.

Thankfully, local Indian stores carry both the leaves and pods, although seasonal.

Moringa is nutrient-rich, with antioxidant and tissue-protective properties. The leaves and pods are rich in nearly all the vitamins, including fat-soluble A and D – rare in the plant kingdom. Hence, the pods were also known as the “vegetarian’s marrow”. It is also rich in various minerals and amino acids, essential for the health of most body systems. The leaves are rich in vitamin A and considered essential for good eye health and a healthy immune system. Moringa leaves are now packaged and sold as teas. But it cannot compare with the benefits of consuming fresh leaves and pods. Here are two of my favorite Moringa dishes.

Moringa Leaves and Pigeon Pea (split yellow lentils) Stew:

Ingredients (all ingredients are available in most ethnic Indian grocery stores)

1 cup dried, split pigeon pea (also known as ‘Toor dal’) Soak for 30 min, drain the water. Then pressure cook with 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and ½ tsp turmeric powder. Once done, remove the pan and mash the lentils with a potato masher to make a smooth, semi liquid paste. Set aside.

1 bunch mooring leaves Pluck leaves from the branch and stem, rinse in water, air dry on a towel to absorb excess moisture. (Engaging your kids in meal preparation is a great way to tickle their curiosity and interest in the kitchen. Kids can help with plucking the leaves.)

1 to 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter) Extra virgin olive oil can be used instead

½ tsp dried cumin seeds, 2 dried red chilies (broken into pieces), ½ tsp black mustard seeds, and 1 sprig curry leaves – washed and chopped

2-3 cloves sliced or minced garlic

½ tsp dried, roasted coriander powder

            ½ tsp turmeric powder

Salt and cayenne pepper powder to taste

Method: Heat and melt ghee on low-to-medium flame in a heavy-bottomed steel pan. Then add chopped garlic, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, broken red chilies and finally curry leaves. Please note that curry leaves will splutter when you add them, so be careful. Let these ingredients cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the cleaned moringa leaves and cook for a min or two. Stir the mixture to allow the leaves to cook. Now add turmeric powder, salt, cayenne powder, and coriander powder. Stir well. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Finally, add cooked/mashed lentil. Now, allow the stew to simmer for 5 minutes, gently stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust salt/pepper seasoning if needed. Your nutritious moringa leaves/lentil stew is ready. It can be eaten mixed with cooked rice or as a dip for naan bread/other breads.

Moringa Pods Stir Fry


4 to 5 mooring pods (Must be tender and easy to cut. Pods are 12 to 18 inches long. Wash the pods and cut them into pieces of 2 to 2.5 inches length. Excess, fibrous, outer skin can be removed much like how one strings a bean)

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 to 3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

½ tsp ginger paste

½ tsp garlic paste

1 to 2 tsp ghee (extra virgin olive oil can also be used)

½ tsp turmeric powered

½ tsp dried, roasted cumin powder

½ to ¾ tsp dried, roasted coriander powder

Salt to taste

Dried Red chilies powder or Cayenne pepper powder to taste

Method: Heat ghee/oil in a heavy bottomed, stainless steel pan. Cook on low to medium heat to preserve the nutrients. Add onions and cook them until they turn light brown. Then add the ginger and garlic paste. Stir often to prevent the pastes from sticking to the pan. Then add tomatoes and cook for a few min. Now add the rest of the powders (turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne). Stir and cook for a few minutes. Finally, add the moringa pods, stir and cook them. Add ½ cup water, close the lid and cook until tender (may take 8 to 10 minutes). If you like, you may garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Turn flame off, and this very tasty dish is ready to be served. This goes well over cooked rice or as an accompaniment to naan bread.

Let me share the way to eat the pods, as it can be a bit tricky: one way is to slit them open length wise and scrape the soft flesh and seeds inside and eat them. The more rustic way (delicious, I would add), is to chew the pod completely until you have sucked all the juice out. Discard the dried fibrous waste.

Integrative psychiatrist Dr. Aruna Tummala shares her love for all things food through monthly cooking classes at Trinergy and Santhigram Spa, 12800 W. National Ave., New Berlin. 




Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse: Giving New Life to Used Items

February 19, 2018

Source: In comparison against most smaller and undeveloped nations, the United States categorically is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. When compared to the average household in other nations, even the poor are not considered so poor. As a nation, we also are some of the world’s most consuming population of material things. Our nation also wastes just as much as it consumes. So how do we lessen our consumer footprint not to be so wasteful?

There is an old saying, “Everything has its place.” Go into any suburban home in post-modern day era, and you most likely will find a basement, an attic, a closet, a garage, or even a shed full of items which have outlasted their initial use. It seems that most households in America will replace their cell phone every six months, a kitchen appliance once a year, and then there is the question of what to do that occasional oddball item which someone may give us as a gift, yet serves no immediate purpose in our household.

So what are we to do with all of this stuff? The obvious answer is if the item is much past its prime, beyond the cost of repairing it, it is time to recycle it. Every year, landfills run out of space because we still do not recycle enough. Glass, plastic, metal, electronics, appliances, wood, paper, cardboard, automobiles, and even some types of concrete cement can all be re-processed and converted into other products. Before you throw something into the garbage can, ask yourself can that item be recycled. Most county governments have a waste disposal and recycling center which you can donor your renewable waste. Salvage yards will accept every type of metal and in some cases, plastic, glass, cardboard, and electronics. Wood items are ground down to make mulch or cardboard.

If you have children, you will know this scenario all too well; you buy an outfit, a pair of shoes, or a toy for your young child just to watch them outgrow it in a matter of a few months. There are a few options—you can trade up your gently used items for either cash, store credit, or a donation voucher at a local consignment shop that deals mainly with children’s items. One store in mind is called Once Upon a Child, where slightly used items are cleaned up and prepared for resale well below the original sticker price. You can find many name brand items can be found in these types of stores for a fraction of the former sticker price, thus allowing disadvantaged parents to purchase name brand clothing for their children without the high cost. You can also donate your items to your local church or to a family that might have children that might be slightly younger than yours, thus allowing for the children’s items to get a second life.

Just about any household item can be cleaned up and resold at a consignment shop, flea market, an antique shop if the age of the item is correct, or even at a church bazaar fundraiser. There is an old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Your item may have outlived its use with you, however for someone else the item’s life is just beginning. Common items that you can find at flea markets or bazaars include tools, car parts, children’s toys, household decor, and even furniture.

You can try finding a new home for your item online. Craig’s List and eBay are online havens for folks looking to sell and buy slightly used items. Even Facebook offers their version of the local marketplace. The most popular categories to buy and sell used items include used furniture; used cars and trucks; used garden tools and equipment; and children’s items. You will also be surprised at the amount of private sellers of jewelry, collectables, and closeout items from businesses which are liquidating their left over inventory.

Many nonprofit organizations have programs where you can donate your used and undesired car, boat, truck, trailer, or recreational vehicle. The standard previously followed is that the donor would receive a donation voucher that they could write off their taxes in the amount of the lowest retail book value for their donated vehicle. In more current years, the donor gets a voucher for their item that relates to the scrap value of their former item. Then the nonprofit will usually deal with a third-party who would determine whether to scrap the item, or offer it for sale at the higher retail value. The public has no idea how much more the third party makes or how much the nonprofit will actually receive. In this case, its best to sell your item as a private sale to another individual and then donate the cash amount to the nonprofit you desire to assist.

The latest trend is that something old can be made new again. Wooden pallets can be taken apart and remade into shelves, storage crates, or even décor. Metal sheathing can be repurposed into material for walls, shelving, made into crafts and containers, or even used in the construction or renovation of a home or business. Glass bottles and jars are great for making sand art pieces, planter pots for small flowers, or even fill them with candy or treats as gifts. Even old lumber, such as rustic beams, floorboards, shiplap siding, can be repurposed for giving a new home the rustic look, or can be used to replace damaged lumber in a restoration project.

Even some waste products around the home can serve another purpose. Food scraps such as used coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels and bones from meat, when added to leaves and grass clippings, make for a great compost mixture for the home gardener. Cardboard and newspaper can serve as a weed barrier in vegetable gardens and are safe for the soil. When the cardboard and newspaper break down, they provide contents for earth worms to use to help enrich the garden soil.

Many of us are used to taking former dish and bathroom towels once they are past their prime and put those towels back to work in the garage as wash rags for the car or lawn equipment. Plastic bags from the grocery store can be reused as small garbage bags around the home. Brown paper bags from the grocery store can be made into protective book covers for children’s school books. Gift boxes can be held on to and reused again the following holiday season. Just about any item around the home can be repurposed and reused into something else.

It is our responsibility as stewards of planet Earth to find ways to get the most life out of the consumer goods and material items around us. With limited landfill space, and the need to protect our precious freshwater supplies, the more we can do to recycle, reuse, and repurpose, gives us one less item that makes its way to the landfill before its prime.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.

Comprehensive Tax Code Reform That Will Work

February 15, 2018

Source: As the House, Senate, and Executive Branch of government look to bring closure and pass a tax code reform into law; key areas of the tax code reform must be considered. With a system of piece meal laws layered over three decades, where does the government begin to streamline the tax code, simplify it, and remove burdens for most of its citizenship? We review some of the alternative answers to help shape up tax code reform.

Whenever government takes up the challenge of tax code reform, it becomes one of the most heated and contentious debates between the political parties, and between law makers and policy enforcement.

On one side of the aisle, Democrats say tax reform aimed at elevate burdens on corporations and business owners push the tax paying burden to the working class to have to pay more, leaving out those that have to pay more than their fair share— the wealthy.

Republicans are quick to respond with proposed policy that if you burden corporations and small business owners with the majority of the tax liability, they will be sure to cut jobs, which means a decrease in payroll and income tax contributions by both businesses and workers alike.

However, during the long drawn fight to parcel together a tax code reform bill, both sides miss many important targets that can have a drastic effect on how tax code reform can shape for the better.

One area of focus is when addressing CAFÉ and GHG standards; tax incentives and credits for fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. Every consumer of a new vehicle pays a gas guzzler tax as part of the overall window sticker price of the vehicle. This fee is paid by the engine-vehicle manufactures themselves then is passed along to every new vehicle purchaser. In the past, there was a designation for multiple tax credit set asides, allowing for a consumer or a business to make specific deductions for their purchase of a specific vehicle, or technology.

What has been proposed is a change in the way this tax credit is even awarded. Instead of being vehicle or technology specific, awarding only a few of the specially selected vehicles or technologies is to make the tax credit performance-based. Having this tax credit performance-based means that instead of just a few special items allowed to fall under this exemption, more technologies and market solutions could be considered by the auto industry if the tax credit was given based on performance of the technology or vehicle achieved above and beyond current CAFÉ or GHG environmental standards. It has been proposed that one could structure a performance based credit could be awarded if a technology or vehicle product provided over 10, 20, or even 30 percent improvement in engine fuel efficiency, and in lowering harmful vehicle emissions beyond the current benchmarks. This would allow for more technological advancements to compete in the market place, give the auto industry to search out more grass-roots ideas and concepts, and be a better deal for consumers.

Another area of tax code reform important for consideration is the Made in the USA tax credit. Until they have reached their economies of scale in their production, small to medium manufacturing businesses cannot compete against similar goods made for far less overseas which are imported and sold by big-box retailers. This proposed tax credit would allow for more small to medium businesses to deduct start-up cost and ramp up cost, allowing these smaller domestic manufacturers to price their goods competitively against cheaper goods imported from outside the country and sold at large chain retailers. As a sidebar, re-evaluating tariffs on foreign-made goods and increasing tariffs on items that are made in the USA of better quality would allow for these small businesses and manufacturers the ability to have some domestic market advantage.

The Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obama Care, has been a train wreck for many. Small businesses owners have seen their premiums and deductibles skyrocket while seeing a decrease in the coverage they were once afforded. This expense, which was also passed along to small businesses as a way to make small business provide health care to their employees, has done just the opposite. Many small business owners no longer can afford to offer health care benefits, which has resulted in some businesses losing some of their most qualified and productive employees to larger competitors who can afford the mandate.

This policy has also affected workers. Employees have found themselves paying more to health care insurance premiums, while receiving less benefit of coverage. The official poverty line, is anyone making less than $1,005 per month ($12,060 per year). As the goal post moves for how much money it takes to support a family (including rent, utilities, food, transportation, education, and other necessities), families are forced to choose between food on the table or health care. In some cases, wage earners could not afford health care insurance prior to the Affordable Health Care Act. Now those same wage earners still cannot afford health care, and are penalized or taxed for not having health care insurance.

There are really only two alternatives in solving this issue: the first is to eliminate the AHCA all together and start over with a new slate that provides wage earners to either participate in a public system, or to opt out for their own private policy and get health care on their own. In the event the wage earner wants neither, they could contribute to their own private health care savings account, setting aside a portion of their money each pay period for a rainy day. This savings account can travel with the wage earner just the same a 401k plan would when the wage earner switches jobs or careers. The other alternative is to create a single pay system, also known as universal health care, which many socialist and some free nations have employed.

Traditionally, there have been five income brackets for determining how much tax each wage earner must pay based on their income, which is a sliding scale ranging from 25 percent of your income (usually lower working class) to over 50 percent of your income (higher middle and wealthy class) must pay on their income. Granted there are a number of deductions and tax credits which have been adopted over time to help tax payers on all levels pay less; however, to eliminate the debate of who is to pay their “fair share,” there is one singular solution that would solve this argument—the creation of one flat percentage income tax percentage rate. If everyone paid the same percentage on their income, each taxpayer is equal in the eyes of the tax code, regardless of their social economic scale. This would also eliminate the need for special deductions by each constituency in order to posture their position.

A flat sales tax can also be implemented which could be shared between the states and the federal government. This tax and what is taxed could be standardized across state borders. Usually those that have more income spend more, and as they spend more, they pay more to sales taxes on their purchases.

A reform suggestion to unemployment that would spur off the creation of jobs comes from across the Atlantic Ocean. In Italy, they have a program for wage earners who lost their job. If they and nine other people want to form a business, they can collectively withdraw their unemployment in a lump sum, and use that money to create a new entrepreneurial venture. Since each wage earner would own a piece of the business, the new business is driven by the performance of the group collectively, focusing their efforts on success instead of just doing enough to get by. Though in Italy, over half of these ventures fail; the other half that succeed generate enough job opportunities to keep people from having to re-enroll for unemployment benefits.

The same program can be created here in the United States. A set aside can be created within the unemployment tax contribution where employees are given the option to either collect unemployment over time or take a lump sum and start a business with a group of other unemployed individuals that may have complimentary skill sets for a future business idea.

Ultimately, tax code reform means that the government needs to get its own house in order so it does not rely on more of its citizenship’s earnings to pay for government’s functions, but less of its own people’s money. Once government can control and lessen its spending to under its means ( in this case revenue from taxes) then real tax code can be considered, as tax code previsions can be eliminated, and allowing for the people to keep more of its own hard-earned money.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns.  Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.

Sustainability for All of Us

January 25, 2018

Source: Many Fortune 500 companies have a roadmap for sustainability and environmental mitigation.  There is a statistical correlation between economic reward and environmental stewardship. Some major corporations have designed a framework of institutional practices and procedures that limit risk and liabilities while maximizing their employment opportunities and profits. These same practices and procedures are tools that work for everyone.  In tough economic times, every edge to save resources should be a consideration.

To begin with, we have to understand what is true sustainability. Sustainability is the ability to endure and to maintain economically, environmentally, and socially our community in a whole.

I usually view sustainability as the balancing act between positive growth (growth behind economic drivers) and the relationship to preserve our environment for the long-term.  Sustainable modeling in the business community is mostly viewed as a company pulling itself up by its own boot straps while considering the people, community, and environment as a part of smart planning.

So how is it done?  Whether you are a small business, a medium-sized enterprise, or a large Fortune 500 company, the basics are all the same.  We all have an inherent responsibility to address these concerns, and it is only to our benefit to do so. Here are just some of the top 10 concerns to take into consideration both economically and environmentally when addressing sustainability and establishing visionary and profitable policies:

  1. Self-Responsibility and Self Choice. Sustainability begins with us as individuals when we take personal responsibility of our own movements and actions. Even the simplest of steps such as recycling in our own home or office, or limiting the amount of times we turn the ignition key of our vehicle to go just a mile down the street, is a matter of self-choice. It is a lifestyle, and it can be designed to what works for each of us as an individual. This is not a one-size-fits-all by any means; however, it does mean we choose to be aware of our environmental impact on the world around us. Everything that we choose has an impact on someone else, and with that comes the responsibility to choose a lifestyle that is economically and environmentally healthy.
  2. Information, News, and Education. Today, our media has become a three-ring circus of watered-down, smash and grab, shock news/entertainment. Consider the source in where economic and environmental projections and information come from. Many individuals make choices about economic and environmental concerns based on emotion, instead of facts and logic. When we know the score of the facts, we can then properly look at the situation.  What is truly your financial picture and how does that map into your carbon footprint? Internal modeling of your spending habits will demonstrate these liabilities. Where to go for the latest educational forums about how environment relates to economics? More and more news is moving to online, so you can say goodbye to print and hello to the digital media world.
  3. Embracing the Innovation. Innovation that provides an economic and environmental benefit needs to be captured and implemented. Solar and wind powered electric generation equipment, new technology in transportation, and green related products and services that provide a return on investment are everywhere.  Most of these creations are children of local inventors, enthusiasts who found a solution to an issue out of necessity.  In most recent years, home-grown technology spins off to home-grown financial investment, local job creation, and eventually, local community re-investment from profits of product sales. Also by utilizing innovative technology, there is a savings benefit, where businesses can use proceeds from energy discounts and savings for more valuable asset upgrades and employment strategies.
  4. Transportation. Alternative fuel powered vehicles, electric cars, and battery hybrid powered vehicles are a great vision for the future, but let’s face the reality—they just cost too much.  Most small business fleets cannot absorb the cost fast enough. All products and services involve some sort of vehicle and are one of the most common ways we get goods or services from point A to point B.  By incorporating innovative aftermarket technology or sharing services with another like business (who might not be a competitor) will allow for some of the cost of moving product to be minimized.
  5. Energy. Our society just cannot continue the track it is on in energy consumption. Infrastructure in the energy grid is severely compromised, and every inch of power line needed to deliver electric to the consumer is another inch that we have a loss of power on a grid system that should have gone the way of the dodo bird. Localized generation and smart grid technology utilizing software systems can have a profitable impact to mitigate loss, and provide the most energy over longer distances. Fossil fuels also add to the burden since an entire economic system is tied to how much a barrel of oil will cost today on the worldwide market. Take into consideration the small things one can do to save money on energy and fuel. A simple thing like walking one mile instead of the one mile drive, or turning off the light switch when someone is not in the room can have a huge effect if we all partake in those practices.  The majority of our hard-earned income goes to fuel in the tank or energy to run our home or office.
  6. Reverse Logistics and Supply Chain. Take a hard look at the real cost of that head of lettuce from California, from the standpoint of a consumer in New Jersey. The grower used water shipped from reservoirs from out of the state and harmful fertilizers that may have been trucked in from the south. Then it was wrapped in a plastic-sealed package that most of the time does not protect the vegetables’ freshness when it embarks on a three-week journey from the processing plant to the warehouse to the supermarket to your kitchen table.  Think about the cost of all the movements and actions that had to be in place for that lettuce to come to be in your household. Now think about this with every aspect of your business.  There you have it: loss of profit because of a long supply chain that occurs because we don’t study the impact of choices we make.  Buying locally supports local jobs.
  7. Jobs. Everyone climbs to the rooftops and yells the topic of jobs.  Sustainability’s very essence is about localized efforts to minimize negative environmental and economic impacts and increase productivity and profits.  When supply chains are shortened, we begin to add to the local employment rolls.  A study performed by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce demonstrated that if every small business in the state of New Jersey bought from local suppliers on a consistent basis, there would be 90,000 new jobs added to the books.  Buy local, support local.
  8. Community Engagement. Everyone wants the great idea, but not in their own backyard if it is going to disturb their private family gathering on a Sunday afternoon. Most plans of solar or wind power projects or green tech-clean tech manufacturing facilities usually fall victim to the public fear of the unknown.  Excite the community by having them included as a part of the process. The community will welcome your interest if they understand your project and you can clearly demonstrate value, economic impact, and self-policing practices that lessen environmental impact. The community can provide for workforce, marketing, and transit opportunities. It can also be a business’ largest nightmare if public relations and community process is not well thought out.

For those who ask, “What’s in it for me?” analysis will show at the end of the day how much money we are really saving. I look to create the win-win, even for people who never purchase a product from our company, or take the time out to understand what it is that we do. By sharing resources, our vendors and neighbors save money and create opportunity. By mass distribution on grass-roots levels, we revert to the good old days when we knew the name of the delivery man who dropped off our purchase from that catalog we got in the mail. The “Me Factor” is savings on the bottom line, with a greener, cleaner tomorrow; beginning with small steps, ending and beginning with the same person; me, the self, the individual.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water.