Go To One of These Events and Improve Your Business

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Making Money Online: Ecommerce Done Right with John LawsonMaking Money Online: Ecommerce Done Right with John Lawson
June 25, 2013, New York, NY

After this live workshop, you’ll be ready to immediately build your own online eBay or Amazon store, source products for it, and start selling. You’ll learn how to market your online store strategically using social media, SEO, mobile and more.

Join John Lawson, award winning Social Commerce Strategist, American Express featured businessman, author, and founder of 3rd Power Outlet – an online clothing retail outlet that has exceeded $25 million in sales.
John will be sharing his practical, down-to-earth methods for building your own ecommerce business from the ground up in this two part workshop, packed with resources, tips, and how-to instruction.
Discount Code
SBTRENDS ( $25 off)

WBENC National Conference & Business FairWBENC National Conference & Business Fair
June 26, 2013, Minneapolis, MN

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) will convene 3,500 decision makers from the nation’s leading corporations, government entities and women’s business enterprises (WBEs) to generate business together and stimulate economic growth at the 2013 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Minneapolis, MN, June 25-27, 2013.

Big Awards for BusinessBig Awards for Business
August 14, 2013, Online

The Big Awards started with a mission of recognizing real talent and performance. Real business people, those with experience and knowledge, judge the Big Awards. Request an entry kit today and submit your nomination by August 14, 2013.
Discount Code
SBT50 ($50.00 off)

More Small Business Events

More Small Business Awards and Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

The post Go To One of These Events and Improve Your Business appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Top Small Business Stories for the Beginning of JunePosted: 08 Jun 2013 12:00 PM PDT

small business news stories

Smaller smartphones, cheaper tablets, and Vine for Android — they’re all top stories for small businesses this week.

You’ll also learn about a new acquisition by sales and CRM software giant Salesforce.com that adds email marketing and marketing communications to the company’s offerings.

As always, the Small Business Trends editorial team gives you the news important to small businesses — and puts it into context for what it means to you.


iPhone grows ever more popular. The iPhone is the most popular make of smartphone, with 39% using an iPhone. But Google’s Android platform dominates, with over half of the market using Android on various makes. That snapshot of the U.S. smartphone market is courtesy the latest report from comScore. Smartphones are increasingly important to small business owners and entrepreneurs who must stay mobile. Which is your favorite and why?

Asus introduces Android tablet for under $150. It’s an economical 7-inch tablet. Called the Memo HD7, it will include a 16 GB device for just $149. The new tablet features two cameras and comes in the colors black, white, shocking pink and lime green. It’s an economical solution for small business users who need a mobile device when out of the office — although it’s not suitable to be your full-time computing device.

Internet Explorer stays on top in the world of browsers. If you have a small business website, you may be interested in what browser your visitors are viewing it with. Internet Explorer continues to dominate the online browser world with 56 percent of the market — at least by one measure. Firefox is the next most popular choice of Web surfers. See the full rundown to discover what browser your visitors might be using.

Samsung takes it down a notch with the Galaxy S4 Mini. It’s not only a smaller smartphone, it’s also a cheaper one. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Mini is a smaller version of the Galaxy S4. The device is 4.91 by 2.41 inches and has a 4.3-inch display screen. It is expected to cost less than the bigger phone, too.

Small businesses learn to use the anchor tag on websites. Do you use the anchor tag on your website? The tag is a clickable link. It takes you directly to a specific area of a page. Here is how you can use it for your business from Amanda DiSilvestro, writer for Viral Content Buzz.

What is a database? Entrepreneurs must often know tech basics these days as tech tools have become so important for building a company. You may think you know what a database is and is not. But we suspect we may offer some useful new information about a variety of tool called the “desktop database.”  Annie Pilon has details.

Google Local Plus offers neat benefits for local marketing.  SEO pro Vedran Tomic at SEO Rabbit chats with Mike Blumenthal, one of the world’s foremost experts in Google Maps, local search and the Google Plus Local service. Blumenthal offers a Google Plus Local 101 guide to making this tool work for your business. A must read for businesses that get most of their customers from their local area and want to do a better job attracting them online.

Social Media

Vine is out on Android. For all the Android users out there who have been waiting to use the Vine short-video application, the time has come. Since Twitter introduced the app on iOS in October 2012, 13 million users have downloaded it. And, an estimated 12 million Vine videos are posted to Twitter daily. How can the service help your business communicate?

Foursquare expands paid promotions to select small businesses. Right now Foursquare is working with small businesses in New York City. The location-based social network will help these businesses target new customers or perhaps customers that have been away from your business for a while, based on a cost-per-action fee structure.

Sponsored posts get a bigger footprint on Tumblr, appearing in the dashboard. And some Tumblr fans are none too happy. But before you go blaming Yahoo, which announced it would acquire the social blogging site a few weeks ago, read this.

Social media monitoring comes of age. From Facebook to Twitter, from LinkedIn to Google Plus and more, social media sites today abound. Each could offer a different value for your business, says Pratik Dholakiya, lead Strategist at E2M Solutions. The key is to learn how to monitor the many places your business has a social media presence. Here is the latest on how to go about it.


Tip: Being too nice in business can be a bad thing. No one says you have to be a meanie all the time. But Rieva Lesonsky, President and Founder of GrowBiz Media, says there is such a thing as being too nice for your own good or for the good of your business. Here Lesonsky offers some ways to evaluate and to change course if necessary.

Subscription-based business models flourish. Today, business success is less about individual sales than maintaining customer relationships. Take Amazon’s Prime Membership, a $79 per year subscription giving you free two-day shipping on pretty much anything Amazon sells. Analyst Brent Leary interviews R.J. Hottovy of Morningstar about the value of building subscription-based membership programs in business.


Getting home equity for micro businesses becomes harder. In fact, Scott Shane, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University, reports the number of home equity loans lines of credit dropped from 23.9 to 18.7 million between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2012.


Salesforce.com fits ExactTarget into its marketing puzzle. Salesforce.com has announced acquisition of ExactTarget, an email marketing and marketing communications software provider. The deal fills a gap in Salesforce.com’s offerings by providing the company with something much closer to a full-range marketing suite.

Prepaid cell phone plans offer options for small businesses. There’s no question cell phones, particularly smartphones, are important for the entrepreneur or small business owner. Prepaid wireless phone plans offer options small businesses might want to consider — and they differ from traditional multi-year mobile phone contracts. TJ McCue offers a review of one such plan.

Freelancer.com expands contests for services. The site already offers a way to hire freelancers for small businesses. It allows small businesses to create contests for design projects, for example, and lets business owners pick from submissions. The site is expanding its contest offerings — you can now structure contests for writing projects, software projects, and more. However, structuring such projects requires extra thought.

Yahoo retires its classic email. If you had some Yahoo Classic email accounts hanging around for business, they’re likely gone now. This week, Yahoo announced it would require any remaining account holders to either change over to update to the new Yahoo email or close their accounts. The update comes with a new Communications Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.


42 tips to consider for a successful business event. There are so many kinds of events and so many ways a business can benefit from them. But planing them can be a chore and overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. Here is some advice from the pros that can help you do it better.

Shutterstock: News on tablet

The post Top Small Business Stories for the Beginning of June appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Entrepreneur Creates Publishing Powerhouse With Niche Romance NovelsPosted: 08 Jun 2013 08:45 AM PDT

Jaid Black aka Tina Engler of Ellora's CaveTina Engler didn’t set out to start a multimillion dollar publishing company when she began writing romance novels in the late 1990s.

She just wanted to write the kind of books she wanted to read. Those kinds of books weren’t widely available from popular authors at the time.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, when she couldn’t find what she wanted on the market — she created it.

Engler, who is best known to romance novel fans under her pen name Jaid Black, happened on — some say invented — a niche.  The niche was erotic romance novels.

Engler’s novels were rejected at first by traditional publishers.  That’s because she shunned the typical euphemisms used in romance novels, instead using explicit language paired up with a romance story line.  Publishers at the time said her descriptions were too graphic.

Those rejections just spurred her on to publish her own stories electronically.  She built a website herself and sold stories as PDFs at first.

Soon she was publishing stories written by other authors, too.  Voila, she had moved from author to become a publisher.

Today her company, Ellora’s Cave, grosses about $15 million per year and sells nearly 200,000 books each month.

Engler’s mother, Patricia Marks, is the CEO, although Engler is still the majority owner.   The company also produces an annual conference for romance fans, called Romanticon, now in its fifth year.

Expanding far beyond the days when Engler offered one book that she had written, Ellora’s Cave now has over 800 authors. A number of authors make in the six figures and at least one, Laurann Dohner, reportedly will make 7 figures this year — proving there’s money in writing and in publishing.

Books are now sold as ebooks and print books, through booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble — and through  the company’s own website.

The company even has its own male models for cover shots — shots that will seem risque to those outside of the romance publishing industry.  The company, headquartered in Ohio, has even trademarked a name for erotic romance: “Romantica.”

Publishing Electronically – Before the Kindle

The company sold books electronically long before there was a Kindle e-reader.  Marks tells their startup story in an interview at Publisher’s Weekly:

Ellora’s Cave started out selling e-books with a PayPal account. Engler, Marks said, would stay up late e-mailing stories to her customers. By 2001, Engler had set up a Web site with a shopping cart and began publishing other writers. As revenues began to rise, Marks — she calls herself an “overbearing mom” (with a business degree) — was watching and helping out where she could. “I helped her set up spreadsheets and figure out royalty payments and other stuff. By 2003 she was making enough money to hire me,” she said.

By the time the Kindle came along and got popular, Ellora’s Cave already had annual sales in the millions.

Ellora's Cave title

The Kindle, however, added to the company’s success.  “The popularity of the Kindle has undoubtedly affected our revenue for the better and made us even stronger,” Engler said.

Ellora’s Cave still focuses primarily on ebooks. It also sells print-on-demand paperbacks.

While growth in ebook sales has slowed somewhat in the past year, there’s still plenty of runway.  A report from the American Association of Publishers and Book Industry Study Group concluded that ebook sales made up 20% of net sales in publishing in 2012, compared to 15% in 2011.

And romance fiction is huge. The Romance Writers of America estimates romance fiction sales from 2012 to be about $1.3 billion.

The erotic romance genre got wider attention in the past two years with the mainstream popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  But Engler said the book hasn’t had much impact on her company. “The only thing Fifty Shades did was bring the media up to speed on what readers were already buying,” she said.

Advice for Authors and Entrepreneurs

The Ellora’s Cave startup story is all about a “follow your instincts” approach and a refusal to be held back by traditional standards.  It’s disruptive innovation brought to fiction writing.

It’s also about being “real.”  The unusual culture of Ellora’s Cave, and the personality of its owner, come through in the company’s communications, its deep red website, its annual conference, and in everything they do.  It’s not a plain-vanilla business.  It doesn’t try to be a conservative corporate publisher.  So it stands out.  It’s memorable.

For authors who are considering self-publishing or selling e-books, Engler aka Jaid Black has some advice.  She says that it is important to not just fall in line with what is popular at the time. Instead, find, invent or expand on a genre that has the potential for demand but very little supply.

For entrepreneurs, she offers this advice about differentiating: “If you can find a new spin on the market, your chance of success is higher than the person who tries to imitate what’s already out there.”

You also need focus. “Do one thing and do it well,” she said. “Don’t expand into new territory until you have the first one conquered and claimed.”

The post Entrepreneur Creates Publishing Powerhouse With Niche Romance Novels appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Is Your Professional Service Among “Leading Firms?”Posted: 08 Jun 2013 06:00 AM PDT

leading firmsWhen Margie Zable Fisher of Zable Fisher Public Relations shared an interview here on Small Business Trends with Built To Sell author John Warrillow, she noted the idea of the service firm trap – an over-focus on hourly rates instead of packages.

In fact, pricing is just one of the traps along the way to developing professional services.

For those who need to break the traps, rejoice.  Leading Firms: How Great Professional Service Firms Succeed & How Your Firm Can Too by David Kuhlman offers tips to improve your professional services beyond smaller jobs and services.

I received a review copy the book from the publisher SelectBooks, and I was pleased with Kuhlman’s blend of insights and supporting material.  Kuhlman has advised numerous senior leaders at prominent professional firms for over 25 years.

When Your Perception of Professional Service Grows Up

Kuhlman’s approach to the material is applicable to small businesses growing up. He examines the operations in a professional firm, highlighting opportunities.

The chapters particularly highlight fallacies and truths. If you are running a professional firm, you’ll quickly learn why some ideas may not be all that they are on paper.

Take strategic advantage, for example. Professional firms believe that their people provide a strategic advantage, but Kuhlman cautions on how and why such assets can be really difficult to develop, noting:

“Most professional firms are good at creating professionals, particular in the process of forming principals, but not as good at creating ‘business people’ …. The process of becoming a complete, fully functioning Actuary or Forensic accountant or Lawyer leaves little time and energy for breadth of knowledge.”

Kuhlman works to broaden the reader’s knowledge, to put mere ideas into workable outlooks that lead to workable solutions.

With a textbook-like tone, Kuhlman reveals graphs, charts and terms that shows the value service firms can bring to customers.   The end result is a better plan for strategy, from execution of customer service to pricing fees.

Top Grade Ideas for Top Professionals

Three aspects of a business model are outlined and are well worth a read if your business plan needs adjusting.  These are introduced early in the book:

  • Client Value Proposition (essentially what is the deficit the client experiences without the service)
  • Client Service Model (the delivery of service)
  • Performance Envelope (the environment in which a firm is best equipped to compete — and my favorite term in the book)

As you can tell from the phrase  ”Performance Envelope,”  you can expect the terms throughout the book to inspire meaningful concepts, not just sales-speak or overly technical jibber-jabber.  Readers from professional firms undergoing growth and who have some years of experience will not read a dumbed-down thought.

The chapter “Resource Deployment” was among the most applicable material. It offers pragmatic approaches to managing people and time.  There are graphs throughout, but the terminology introduced in the chapter explains what can happen as a professional firm operates.  The concept behind leverage, for example, is that value from firm operations varies according to who performs the tasks.

Processes in Leading Firms are also explained against what a client can experience, so the reader can understand why some practices may not be all that they are on paper. There’s also a game theory sensibility with respect to workplace concerns. The chapter of meritocracy notes what can be encountered despite principal claims that merit is a factor for workplace success.   Read how Kuhlman applies his experience to note a potential challenge to senior principals:

“Senior principals represent a unique challenge to the firm’s sense of meritocracy.  In this sense “senior” does mean oldest or closest to retirement rather than senior in terms of status or contribution — and therein lies the problem. Different principals follow different paths toward their inevitable departure from their firm. Some principals begin to slow down and contribute less in current economic terms.…  Other principals continue to deliver big results, commanding large clients and significant revenue streams. These principals play a dominant role in the firm’s economic and client life, influencing the fates of a large proportion of the firm’s personnel…. Senior principals who remain dominant represent a different sort of cultural challenge: they soak up opportunities that could more productively be used to enable other up-and-coming principals.”

The viewpoints made this book a really enjoyable resource. A lot of phrases were just eye-catching such as this one:

“No major initiative can be so fully specified that it will survive a collision with actual facts and circumstances on the ground.”

Comments like this are linguistically interesting – a few were a challenge to digest, but not overwhelming on the second read.  But overall every suggestion supports the main thesis:  assets can take time to develop.

Who Could Benefit From Reading Leading Firms?

Legal and financial professionals with dreams of their own firm are certainly the audience for this book. But its appeal does not stop there.

Other businesses whose clients receive professional services can gain insight.

Startups with the latest B2B software-as-a-service application can gain some sensibility about the conditions experienced at professional service firms it intends to sell to.    There is no silver bullet, but your strategy for working with a professional firm can be better refined after reading Kuhlman’s views.

A quick aside:  Those professionals having launched a professional service should also consider reading the book Service Innovation.   It provides some ideas on how to frame service plans to match what you are seeing in the field. The combo can give you some ideas on not only how to be innovative, but what business skill sets your firm would need to deliver the result.

Read Leading Firms to explore how your professional service firm can avoid most traps and to understand what it truly means to lead.

The post Is Your Professional Service Among “Leading Firms?” appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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