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Waste Not, Want Not

July 30, 2018

More than once, my grandma mentioned that “waste not, want not” phrase. She also frequently reminded us that there are people starving throughout the world, so we’d better appreciate our food by cleaning our plates. Grandma would probably be horrified to learn that today, the United States is one of the worst culprits when it comes to wasting food; food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. The percentage comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, which corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010 (usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm).

Reading stats like those immediately conjures up news footage of starving children and adults in our own country and globally, as well as all the earth’s resources such as water that’s used to produce food that’s ultimately never consumed. Grandma’s “waste not, want not” words immediately echo in my head, but instead of feeling guilty, let’s look at some solutions to help reduce food waste:

Don’t overbuy: This tip might seem obvious, but it can take real discipline to avoid buying on impulse, or loading up because the item is such a great deal. Be conscious and consider whether you will really use up that 10 pound bag of potatoes that’s on sale; if you waste half the bag, it’s not such a good deal after all. Do you need only one carrot for a recipe? If so, don’t buy a whole bag. Most produce departments offer loose items, so you can buy only what’s needed. Try not to shop when you’re in a hurry, as that can further lead to impulse buys.

Consider what lasts, and what doesn’t: With an abundance of summer fruits in season, it’s easy to want to grab them all, considering that Wisconsin’s summer growing season is so short. But unless you plan to preserve that bushel of peaches, or make lots of pie or freeze that box of beautiful Michigan blueberries, buy small. Blueberries keep better than raspberries, which can go bad in what seems like minutes.  Unless you plan to eat raspberries right away, choose fruit that keeps longer and that you can still enjoy later in the week.

Don’t be afraid of ugly produce: We’re conditioned to think tomatoes have to be perfectly round and red, or that carrots aren’t supposed to have legs, but nature produces lots of shapes and sizes. Some imperfect produce might look weird at a glance, yet these items are still flavorful and safe to consume.

Try “kitchen sink” smoothies, casseroles and quiches: Produce on the verge of going bad can still make tasty additions to dishes and drinks. Slightly mushy fruit can be tossed into smoothies, juices, or mashed, heated and sweetened with a little sugar or honey to make ice cream topping.  Chop that wilted broccoli or spinach to use in a quiche or casserole.

Don’t toss those veggie tops: Did you know that wispy green carrot tops taste remarkably like parsley? I didn’t, until I talked to a chef who tipped me off as to how he uses vegetable tops to jazz up dishes. Instead of lopping off and tossing carrot tops, use them in place of parsley or to flavor soup stock. Beet tops can also be sautéed and seasoned to eat in place of greens.

Compost: Despite our best efforts to reduce food waste, there will still be that occasional tomato that rolls to the back of the refrigerator, or a few potatoes that go bad. If you have the space on your property, start a compost pile. I have a small city yard, so I use a compact rotating compost bin with a latching door. It fits discreetly into the corner of the yard near my garage, and every spring, I have rich, nutritious soil to add to the garden. Not a gardener? Compost anyway, and give the product to your gardener friend or relative, or contact a local composting organization like Kompost Kids (kompostkids.org) or a community garden to see if they can use your food scraps.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

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Small Business Ownership vs Entrepreneurship

July 24, 2018

Source: So, which are you – a small business owner or an entrepreneur? We compare the similarities and differences between the two, so you can decide which category you best fit into.

Both the small business owner and the entrepreneur have significant impact on our economic system. They are both creators of opportunity for others, they both offer a product and/or service, and they both contribute to the success of the economy. So how do you know which one you are? There are some stark differences between being a small business owner versus being an entrepreneur; although both add great value to society.

Small business ownership usually means that a person owns a business that is tied to a limited geographic area, whereas an entrepreneur’s value proposition is not limited to any one community or location. Both the small business owner and the entrepreneur offer a product or service that others may need. The size of the audience in which each respective marketer serves is dictated by their reach, location, and vision. Small business owners are usually centered and consider themselves as the local authority for their respective town, city, community, or even county. The entrepreneur knows no boundaries, no boarders, no defined geographical lines, but rather focuses on the demographic of their market reach.

Both the small business owner and the entrepreneur take a risk to start their venture. They are equal in the aspect that they must invest hard financial investment, their time, their skill sets, and sweat equity in order to upstart their enterprise. The difference between small business ownership and entrepreneurship risk is the amount of risk one is willing to take and the scope of risk one is willing to endure. A small business owner’s ability to take risk may be limited to how much capital they have available. They rarely ask for others to invest into their local business. Most small business owners will put their personal assets on the line to drum up the cash needed to start their business. The return on investment and risk is limited to the size of the market in which the small business owner provides their product or services.

The entrepreneur is a larger risk taker, willing to not only put all of their money and time on the line, but he or she also has a business plan that allows for others to take a risk or invest into their idea as the growth plan evolves throughout different phases. The ability to gain a return on investment has far more opportunities because the entrepreneur’s offering is not limited to any one market. The entrepreneur sets higher sales goals, and extends their market reach to higher aspirations, therefore in order to achieve these goals, the entrepreneur needs to put even more at risk. For instance if the entrepreneur visions their product or technology being utilized worldwide, they will need more capital and resources to launch their idea.

The small business owner focuses on a proven business model that they can personalize and put to work. Most small businesses have a standard business model. Say you desire to own an auto parts store, hardware store, or hair salon; these types of businesses have an industry standard business model that fits the geographic locale in which that intended business is to service. A local retail business such as a hardware store or grocery market does not invent anything, they supply a local community with a select array of product offerings which they can purchase from a wholesale supplier. Even the planogram of the retailer’s store location has a standard recipe in line with their industry.

An entrepreneur follows a different path. The entrepreneur has to develop their own road map for taking their invention or idea to market. An entrepreneur may offer a product, technology, or unique service proposition; however, they are usually either the inventor or have a partnership with the inventor to take the product or device to market. This includes all the steps of research, development, manufacturing, distribution and service, while marketing and advertising the value proposition through all of the phases of its entry into the market place.  If the product, technology or service does not yet exist, the entrepreneur must develop the methods and practices for each step in the process of creating, manufacturing and delivering their offering to market. This requires the ability to envision each moving part of the business when there may not be a business model that yet exists.

Even the style of planning and leadership is distinctly different between the small business owner and the entrepreneur. Small business owners plan a day-to-day schedule, a plan that may extend up to months at a time as their business model requires. Most entrepreneurs with a new idea to the market must plan for years ahead, because their market strategies may need far more time to develop. A small business owner may have to micro-manage their business enterprise due to the limited staff their business employs. Entrepreneurs can delegate more tasks from the to-do list to others as their enterprise grows. Entrepreneurs are also involved in more of the technical aspects of their value proposition, where they are part of the product or invention development process.

A study by The Quarterly Journal of Economics revealed that most small business owners are involved in businesses that require manual talents, verses the entrepreneur, whose enterprise is based on high-level cognitive skills and creativity. The study further provides that entrepreneurs are naturally larger risk takers and their offering is not yet common to the market. Most small business owners are either merchants or service providers of specific needs relevant to a geographic market.

What makes the small business owner and the entrepreneur character so unique? They both share passion for their value proposition.  Both types of business leaders feel their product or service offering will be of great benefit to the audience they are serving.

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, and Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.

 

Who are the Voices for Small Business?

July 16, 2018

Source:When the small business owner needs a voice, where do they go? We provide a host of some of the largest organizations that advocate for the small business community.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy and account for half of the total number of jobs and persons employed. Small businesses account for the majority of local economic engines. When Small businesses need support or a voice to stand up for their concerns, there are a number of organizations they can rely on to advocate on their behalf. Here are a few organizations that have received positive rankings from small business owners:

Association of Washington Business: Since its formation in 1904, Washington’s oldest and largest business association continues to serve as the state’s chamber of commerce as well as the manufacturing and technology association. AWB advocates on behalf of businesses of all sizes and from all industries, working to unify and find solutions to issues facing Washington employers, their employees and communities. AWB is located at: 1414 Cherry St. SE, Olympia, WA 98501, toll-free number: 800-521-9325, e-mail: members@awb.org. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.awb.org.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Founded in 1987, EO is a global business network that enables business owners to learn from each other by providing numerous resources to assist in educating and inspiring personal and professional growth. EO has international locations in Singapore, Belgium, Panama, and Canada, EO’s global headquarters is located at: 500 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, Alexandria, VA 22314, telephone: 1-703-519-6700. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.eonetwork.org.

Minority Business Development Agency: MBDA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Their focus is to assist in the development and growth of minority-owned businesses, utilizing private and public sector programs, policy, and research. Additional information can be found at: https://www.mbda.gov.

National Association for the Self-Employed: Since 1981, NASE has been the nation’s leading resource for entrepreneurs, utilizing publications, media relations and a foundation with which entrepreneurs and their small businesses can benefit from. It is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of its kind in the US. NASE is located in Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0241, telephone: (US) 1-800-649-6273 and (AK & HI) 1-800-232-6273. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nase.org.

National Business Association: The NBA has been working alongside small business owners for 35 years, providing resources and benefits needed for business owners to succeed. The NBA can be reached by telephone: 1-800-456-0440. Additional information can be found on their website: nationalbusiness.org.

National Federation of Independent Businesses: Founded in 1943, the NFIB is the largest small business association in the U.S., working to defend the right of small business owners to own and operate their businesses without undue government interference. NFIB has offices in all 50 state capitals, including Washington, D.C., with its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. They can be reached by calling: 1-800-NFIB-NOW, or 615-872-5800. Additional information can be found on their website: www.nfib.com.

National Minority Supplier Development Council: NMSDC is a nonprofit organization that advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members, building long-term strategic partnerships which encourage economic commerce between large corporate interests and locally developed small businesses owned by minority men and women. NMSDC also assists minority owned small businesses to obtain their certifications. NMSDC is located at 1359 Broadway, 10thFloor, Suite 1000, NY, NY 10018. You can also call NMSDC at (212)-944-2430 or through the NMSDC website: www.nmsdc.org

National Retail Federation: The NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing retailers from over 45 countries, including the US. Their mission is to use advocacy, communications and education with which to promote the best interests of the retail industry. The NRF is located at 1101 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC, telephone: 1-800-673-4692, or 1-202-783-7971. Additional information can be found on their website: https://nrf.com.

National Small Business Association: Since 1990, the NSBA, Inc. has provided small business owners, their employees, and retirees access to innovative services, resources, and benefits, such as collegiate scholarship awards to eligible NSBA members and their families. The NSBA is committed to small business advocacy and public awareness. Telephone: 1-888-800-3416, and email: contact@nsba.net. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nsba.net.

Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association: Starting in 1973, the international OOIDA represents the interests of independent owner-operators and professional drivers on every issue affecting truckers in all 50 states and Canada. OOIDA seek to ensure that truckers are treated with equality and to ensure highway safety and responsibility among all highway users, as well as improve the business climate for all truck operators. Located at 1 NW OOIDA Drive, Grain Valley, MO 64029; telephone: 1-800-444-5791. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.ooida.com.

Small Business Administration: Founded on July 30, 1953, the U.S. SBA focuses on four main venues with which it works: assistance to capital, entrepreneurial development, government contracting and advocacy for small business across the United States. The SBA provides millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and various other forms of resource and assistance to small businesses. The SBA has several key locations, with a toll-free number: 1-800-827-5722. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sba.gov.

Small Business Association of America: Since 1964, the SBAA has provided insured benefits, discount benefit plans and services to its members, who included small business owners, those self-employed, individuals and families. Monthly dues are required. SBA is a non-profit organization located in Washington DC. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sbaamerica.com.

Small Business International: SBI provides guidance and resources when a small business entertains the possibility of connecting with international partners, including matching products and services with over 80,000 other members. Business can find out more information about importing or exporting, trade laws and compliance, and more. Visit Small Business International at www.smallbusinessinternational.com

Small Business Owners & Professionals Association: SBOAPA of Canada is a nonprofit organization founded with the mission to provide small business owners, their employees and retirees access to a wide variety of services, programs, information and benefits, such as sponsorship activities, networking opportunities, scholarships, and advocacy, all to aid in the success of their businesses. Additional information can be found on their website:http://sboapa.org.

United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship:  The USASBE is an organization that seeks to assist the entrepreneurship community through teaching, scholarship, and practice opportunities. The USASBE includes members who are teachers, researchers, program directors and practitioners. Located at: 1214 Hyland Hall, 800 W. Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190, telephone: 262-472-1449. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.usasbe.org.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Founded on April 22, 1912, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of over 3 million businesses with 3 main areas of focus: advocacy, community, and leadership. Members include mom-and-pop shops, local chambers, large corporations and leading industry associations. The USCC is located at: 1615 H Street, NJ, Washington, DC 20062-2000, telephone: 1-800-638-6582. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.uschamber.com.

Young Entrepreneurs Council: YEC provides all the tools needed for its members to become successful business entrepreneurs. The YEC staff utilizes their extensive knowledge, networking opportunities, media exposure, and personal branding development to bring their members from novice to polished professional. YEC is located at: 745 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110, email: info@yec.co. Additional information can be found at: https://yec.co.

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, and Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.

 

Effective Crowdfunding Techniques: Part Two

July 9, 2018

Source:When it comes to raising money for your business online, there are several platforms available depending on your business’s value proposition, but getting an audience to review and take action in becoming a donor is the more difficult goal. Here are a few of the most effective techniques that will assist your business with its crowdfunding goals.

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe are three of the most popular fundraising platforms for pre-launching a unique value proposition online. The most popular campaigns consist of book projects, market disruption technologies, and other products designed to satisfy a need or solve a problem. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have utilized online crowdfunding platforms to get their offering to market. Not every campaign launched is a success. Some of the latest and greatest well-thought out ideas fizzle out due to the lack of integration of methods in promoting the campaign itself and/or lack of audience engagement. Here are a few of the most effective crowdfunding practices that can enable your campaign to be a bigger success:

1). Set reasonable goals. Not every crowdfunding campaign will be able to sell out every perk and end up with millions of dollars at the end. It is better to set reasonable and obtainable financial goals based on your current business audience and following. It is always better to set a lower financial goal, offer many perk packages, and overshoot the expectations. When a goal is considered unrealistic, most campaign contributors will skip over and move onto the next campaign in fear that in the event your campaign does not reach its goals, it will not be in a position to deliver on the perks it offers.

2). Maximize the term of the campaign. Crowdfunding campaigns need plenty of time to be marketed, showcased, and shared with an audience of potential contributors. Setting the length of the term of the campaign to at least 60 days will allow for your campaign to be seen by more people. The longer a campaign is open, the more opportunities you have to update the campaign and adjust posts and project progress with your following audience. As the number of contributors climbs, more people will be open and willing to contribute to the campaign. A campaign that has attracted traffic has more reach and draws even more attention. Allow yourself enough time to work out the formula for success.

3). Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Crowdfunding is an opportunity to share your “why” behind the project and the “what” the value proposition is.  It is wise to share how you came to the idea you did (your motive and intention); and a clear description of the deliverable (the what). Contributors like to feel like they are helping someone out that has lent their struggle to solving a problem with their value proposition. Contributors want to believe in the people behind the perk as much as they desire to believe in the value of the perk itself. It is fine to be passionate – this is where you also get to pitch you.

4). Be clear in describing what is in it for the contributor. Any time a potential consumer contemplates to part with their money, they analyze a series of self-discovery questions. “How will this change my life?” “Do I really need the perk?” “Will this product/book/technology really help people?” “Will they (the campaigner) be able to deliver?” And most of all, “What’s in it for me?”  Ask yourself, if you were the potential contributor, do you really need this in your life? And then ask yourself, if you do purchase the perk, what will the perk really do for you? Your perk packages should be something everyone wants or can appreciate. A true and clear representation of the value of your perk will often determine how much risk a contributor is willing to take. Is it something anyone can get in a local store, or is it unique and limited?

5). Engage the crowd. Crowdfunding was designed to have two functions:

  • To raise money for a cause
  • To collect feedback from potential consumers

The more engaging a campaign with a group of followers is, the higher the probability is that your campaign will have more contributors. Crowdfunding allows for both the inventor/entrepreneur and for the market to have an early conversation about the product offering. This should also give the campaigner valuable data to improve the make and model of their concept when necessary. Don’t be afraid to answer questions, provide test results, and make changes according to the positive feedback you receive. The more information you can share in an open dialog the more willing a contributor will be in supporting your cause.

6). A great marketing strategy drives every well-funded campaign goal. Effective marketing and advertising methods can assure that a larger audience views your campaign. Your marketing strategy should employ a mix of marketing tools, many of which have little or no cost. Make sure the marketing of your crowdfunding campaign includes a mix of social media, blog content, press releases, video content, photo content, search engine optimization, articles, testimonials, endorsements, product/book reviews, back link integration, and some use of traditional advertising. You will need to monitor and update marketing metrics, so you can adjust your marketing mix according to how potential contributors respond to your message.

7). Perform your due diligence. There is nothing new under the sun, and the same goes for crowdfunding. Even if your product is the first of its kind, there may be a similar market solution or competitor in your industry space. Research the “problem” and review the “solutions” other entrepreneurs have offered to the market. Then research how many of those entrepreneurs employed crowdfunding to upstart their enterprise. Chances are that there will be a number of campaigns that were very successful and some campaigns that were utter failures. Make a list of the techniques that were most effective and the mistakes made that caused a campaign to flop. Compare these techniques against the list of practices you desire to employ in sharing your campaign.

8). Have a complete understanding of your potential audience. You must have a clear understanding of the audience you desire to enroll in your campaign. The demographics of the audience and the geographic location of potential campaign contributors can have an effect on whether your campaign is a success or failure. For instance, most digital or complicated electronic devices are more popular with younger generation donors. In contrast, if you have a very traditional product offering, then you need to identify, and target your campaign to, the audience that will have the most interest in your value proposition.

9). Be transparent with how you plan to spend your campaign funds. Campaign contributors want to know if you have a financial plan in place for spending or saving the money in which they have pledged. Most campaigns have best succeeded by using the campaign contributions to fulfill actual product orders. Most campaign contributors want to pre-pay for the unreleased product or book before everyone else in the neighborhood has it. Be prepared to plan to give back all of your campaign contributions in the event you do not meet your goals.

10). Set a reasonable timetable of delivery. Truth is your value proposition should be almost market ready. Crowdfunding should not be the only source for funding your project, nor should your campaign’s success or failure determine if your product is going to ever be manufactured. Set a reasonable delivery date that campaign contributors can expect their perk. In the event your project takes longer than expected, it is important to share with your contributors about the delay and updates of progress until the project orders are fulfilled.

11). Show that you are willing to invest into yourself. Most campaign contributors want to see that the entrepreneur has some of their own risk involved. There are two basic types of investment you are going to be required to make in your own project. The first is monetary. You must have some of your own capital at work. Having the ability to share with potential donors the actual amount of hard cash investment you have at stake before asking for outside financial resources always strikes a positive cord. The other investment you will have to make is sweat equity. Provide detail with contributors how much time you have invested and how much work you have put behind the project. You can share with the audience the functions and tasks you are personally responsible for. It is also good to provide some back story of your experiences and regarding your abilities to deliver upon those said tasks.

Each crowdfunding campaign has its own unique value proposition, and brings with it each entrepreneur’s story. The more thought you invest into each of these areas of your campaign, the greater the probability that a larger audience will take notice and interest in your campaign.

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 the author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, and Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.

Why is Fashion So Important?

June 21, 2018

Source: Throughout history, society has turned to the latest fashion statement as a mark of social status. Why is fashion so important? Why do so many people pay attention to it, and why does it even matter?

Fashion in clothing has always stood as a social economic symbol for individuals that were in tune with the times. For some, clothing is just fabric that serves the purpose of covering and protecting the body. For others, fashion is a form of living art in motion.

It is believed by many in the fashion industry that fashion is a way for individuals to express themselves. Each color and type of fabric has a meaning, and matches a personality type. When colors and fabrics are mixed, each combination tells a story about the person wearing it, much the same as it does of the person or company that designed it. Each fashion trend has a “look” or style that best reflects individual personality and demeanor. Every person contributes a personal touch to each day’s outfit.

For instance, navy blue and a mixture of gray colors for business suits and outfits are considered the professional in the office environment; however, if you are at a trade show trying to attract attention, you might wear white or bright colors to get noticed by people. Such “rules” for fashion usually come from corporate dress codes, with the intent of being neutral and objective to the audience you are trying to communicate with.

Fashion itself has always been a reflection of the sign of the times. Whether it is for a social economic reason, political statement, or within a culture’s tradition, fashion has always played a role in communicating the “message” of a people or a message of the times. Each culture has its own unique traditional dress that reflects its community’s belief system, whether it be philosophical or religious. As technology has improved manufacturing capabilities, fashion has gone from being “homemade” to more mass-produced, thus more audiences may wear similar clothing than in the past.

A newer trend in clothing fashion goes beyond purpose, function and the traditional forms of influence to include becoming mobile billboards for the fashion brands themselves. If you take a look at fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, GUESS and Juicy Couture, their signature brands have become the focus, not the people wearing them. Their ad campaigns can make people feel that if they do not own a Hilfiger or GUESS article of clothing, they are not part of the cool crowd. Other clothing brands focus on becoming high energy, luxury life style brands, thus owning their clothing becomes a status symbol.

For others, fashion, style and choice of brands are determined primarily by an individual’s personal passion, hobby or cause, making their clothing into their own personal billboard. Some examples of this are seen in sports apparel, racing, motorcycle apparel and brands committed to environmental sustainability and human rights.

Fashion has become a living art form, and though most average working class individuals may never spend thousands of dollars on one single article of clothing, individuals have come to appreciate the many artistic designs presented on the runway or showcased on models in department stores. This work of art says something to each person that views it. Some of these designs may be ridiculous to wear in any daily situation, however, the design itself may spur off other creative ideas because of the shapes, colors, or materials used to create the living art.

It has also been said that we feel the way we look. As human beings, we are very visual people. How we see ourselves in the mirror before leaving our homes for the day may be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Have you ever put on an article of clothing such as a suit and tie or a dress and instantly felt better about yourself? Showing that we are willing to invest into ourselves before we leave home for an important meeting, or for a family or social event, usually will reflect the response that we demand from others on how they view us. Though we are taught not to judge a person by their appearance, we do; and it’s the first impression that lasts the longest in our mind.

Fashion is not just clothing. It is a representation of an industry that employs millions of people. From designers to production line manufacturing, from marketing and advertising to retail workers, many jobs and economic foundations are based on the fashion industry. The next time you choose a piece of clothing from the rack, ask yourself how many people were involved with the final product you can touch and see in the store. Even the raw materials had to be grown or harvested by a farmer or field hand.

Ultimately, fashion is a personal choice, whether you chose your style to serve a specific purpose or it’s to impress others around you, fashion is meant to be the personalized message you dare to share with others. For some, fashion trends are not that important, but rather a matter of form and functionality. Whatever your view, it is reflected in how you present yourself.

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 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, and Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.

 

Bug Off, Mosquitoes!

June 19, 2018

While walking through one of our serene Milwaukee County Parks over the weekend, it wasn’t long before I became a feast for the mosquitoes that seemed to arrive from out of nowhere—and during mid-afternoon! As a lifelong Wisconsinite, I shouldn’t have been surprised (locals often joke that Wisconsin’s unofficial state bird is the mosquito) but I was upset with myself that as of mid-June, I had yet to whip up a batch of my all-natural mosquito repellant. Early summer rains, combined with the region’s signature humidity, created the perfect breeding grounds for the little bloodsuckers, and they apparently took full advantage of it.

As itchy welts surfaced on my legs, I left the park, headed home and immediately grabbed my trusted essential oils to make my natural insect repellant. Like many people, I used to use the chemical-laden commercial bug repellents, until I began researching what was in them (which likely explained the mild headaches I occasionally suffered from after using some of those products).  So for the past decade-plus, I’ve turned to natural remedies such as this easy-to-make mosquito repellent:

4 oz. with hazel or distilled water

2 drops peppermint essential oil

2 drops rosemary essential oil

2 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops tea tree essential oil

2 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake to blend. Spray on the body before heading outdoors, avoiding the eyes, nose and mouth. Reapply as needed.

Tip: be sure to use good quality essential oils; many cheaper oils sold at discount stores contain synthetic fragrances and fillers.

You can also adjust the ratio of essential oils to suit your preference, but I’ve found the above combination to be effective.

Other mosquito prevention tips:

Remove any standing water from your yard. Empty your pet’s water dish into the garden whenever the pet is not outdoors, and check the saucers under potted plants for water accumulation. Clogged rain gutters or buckets left outdoors can also collect standing rain and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Change water in birdbaths regularly. If you have a rain barrel, be sure it has a screen.

Incorporate mosquito-repellent plants into the garden. Rose geranium, lemon balm, catnip and basil are good choices.

Burn citronella candles.

If you have room on your property, install a bat house. Although these winged creatures are usually associated with creepy Halloween images, bats are our most useful, natural allies in controlling pests such as mosquitoes.

Notice how mosquitoes are never present on breezy nights? The small, light-bodied mosquitoes cannot fly against even lighter winds, so create your own breeze. You’ll have to use a small amount if electricity, but this method is chemical-free and works well, especially for larger backyard get-togethers: bring a box fan or an oscillating fan outdoors, and plug it into an outdoor outlet or run an extension cord outdoors. Turn on the fan, and just blow the mosquitos away.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

 

 

Crowdfunding Options for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

June 6, 2018

Source: Many small start-up businesses and tech ventures in search of capital turn to popular online platforms for crowd fundraising of financial resources to get their concept off the ground and launched into market. Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, to name a few, offer solutions in generating cash to fund new ideas. How do you get people to contribute to your cause? We take a look at some of the most effective crowdfunding techniques.

In the last decade, there have been a number of crowdfunding platforms that offer a menu of fundraising options, including the launch and growth of Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe. A potential campaign contributor can find a variety of crowd fundraising campaigns that range from an inventor who is in search of a few thousand dollars, to a large, corporate-backed venture that is accepting pre-market orders for their new value creation. Each platform specializes in their own niche offering and provides a formatted recipe for what works in getting campaign contributions.

For instance, Indiegogo mandates that campaigners build and maintain a very aggressive plan that engages with multiple audiences from the campaign’s inception. As a part of the Indiegogo playbook, campaigners must make weekly posts and provide monthly updates for campaigns that have transitioned from either a 30- or 60-day campaign to their long-term product, called InDemand.  Indiegogo shares that campaigns must include video and photo content as part of their message in sharing their offering with potential contributors.

Kickstarter is also a leader in assisting with the introduction of innovative products and new books, music and other forms of art to market. What makes Kickstarter so successful for some entrepreneurs are the tools available that Kickstarter offers to promote their campaigns. Crowdfunding campaigns that have the highest rate of success with Kickstarter are those that offer something that is new, solve a problem, and offer something practical that people are willing to buy. Most products presented on Kickstarter are beyond concept and are ready for manufacturing and delivery. Kickstarter has helped products get more traction online, and has served as an interim online e-commerce site for product sales while entrepreneurs are setting up a permanent place to market their value proposition.

Most people use GoFundMe as a social cause donation site. For many individuals and groups needing only a few thousand dollars of funding for a personal project, GoFundMe has become the crowdfunding platform of choice. From setting up and taking donations for a funeral, to sponsoring a local sports team which is trying to obtain funding so they can travel to an event, GoFundMe has provided millions of individuals and nonprofits the ability to quickly gather up a few extra dollars in a time of need.

So what are some of the most effective practices for marketing your crowdfund project? When marketing to potential funders, social media has become the mainstay platform to inform your audience of close friends and connections about your cause or value proposition. Facebook gives you an opportunity to spread the word to your friends, family and extended connections. To get a better reach of your program, you can ask and encourage your network to share your post and provide feedback about the reason why they chose to help your campaign. If you desire to connect with professionals in a specific industry, LinkedIn provides the ability to syndicate and share your post with people from several related market segments. You can also promote your campaign through Twitter and Instagram, redirecting raving fans to your campaign page.

So what will donors get for their money? A donor should have the ability to choose perks in return for their donation, especially if the campaign is not solely philanthropic. “Perks” are the benefits that an individual can expect in return for the donation. The more creativeness and value you can squeeze into each perk package, the more you can request per perk level. By adding in a free copy of a book or promotional materials, you can provide additional added value for your donors. Perks are generally pre-orders for the specific market product you desire to launch. You can, however, provide add-ons for each level of donation.

Two methods you can employ for increasing how many people see your perks are:  1) holding a contest for most shares of your post with friends on social media, and 2) asking people who are not in a position to contribute to your campaign to help by spreading the message about your campaign story with people they feel would be interested in your project.

Having a few endorsements either by written or video testimonial will provide additional credibility to your offering. You can ask satisfied customers to give testimonials, or, if you know a celebrity, sports figure, or public figure, you can ask them to share a few words about your project, edifying the project and the product.

Lastly, you must monitor your results on a daily basis and make campaign adjustments accordingly. Having the ability to tweak your project’s campaign as you obtain feedback from donors will help you make changes to your campaign and provide updates that may increase traffic to your campaign’s page. Most crowdfunding campaigns can extend as long as 60 days, thus giving you time every few weeks to add to your campaign content and promote it online.

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, and Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.