E-Commerce Platforms for Small Businesses

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 9/22/2018, a www. SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Small Business, Commerce, Technology, Innovation

Source: In today’s fast-paced society, where the world of commerce is not limited by borders, small businesses need to expand their ability to exchange their goods and services in return for payment. With more consumers shopping online from the comfort of their living rooms, small businesses need to consider alternatives to traditional payment systems.

One of the residual benefits of technology advancement for small businesses is that it brings small businesses and distant markets closer together. Fifty years ago, an independent retailer on Main Street USA would have never been able to communicate with a potential customer in a foreign country, let alone sell their goods or services from afar. Today, many small businesses can offer their value propositions outside of their zip code with the help of electronic commerce platforms and digital tools.

Small business owners have a two-fold win. Firstly, small business owners have a multitude of digital advertising options available to them to reach potential consumers in other geographic locations outside of the physical reach of their businesses. Secondly, by using ecommerce platforms, small businesses can collect payment for their products and services without the customer ever having to step foot into their physical business location.

There are two kinds of ecommerce platforms to consider: Self-Hosted and Hosted. There is a difference between the two types of platforms which a small business owner should consider before choosing the platform and service that works for them.

Self-Hosted platforms are designed to be coupled with web hosting. These systems work similarly to partnering a web blog roll to an existing website. However, instead of partnering content, you are partnering a payment system. These systems can be tailored to the specific needs of the business, such as the implementation of a shopping cart for an online store. When using a self-hosted ecommerce platform, businesses are afforded the flexibility to alter their system, website, or even transition from one service provider to another.

Hosted ecommerce platforms are ecommerce platforms that integrate all of the moving parts of an ecommerce system into one. Hosted ecommerce platforms include access to the master web servicer that services multiple end users, the online shopping cart, bill collection, transfer of funds, and technical and design support. Because hosted ecommerce platforms are designed to be universal platforms utilized by many ecommerce participants, these systems and functions are more uniform.

Some of the most recommended Self-Hosted ecommerce platforms include Magento, OpenCart, WooCommerce, Zen Cart, and Big Cartel. What these platforms have in common is that they are designed for use by both the home-based business and the small brick and mortar business. These self-hosted platforms allow users to customize their own tools without the help of outside tech support. They also allow for the business owner to take advantage of search engine optimization tools, and user-friendly systems for shoppers. Much like creating a website, these platforms offer multiple templates, built-in blogging tools, and individual control over design and tool integration changes.

Shopify, Big Commerce, PrestaShop, Volusion, and YoCart are highly recommended Hosted ecommerce platforms for the small business owner to the major corporate-run online store. Shopify is the most recognizable and popular ecommerce platform of the bunch; however they all offer an elevated service package. Many of these systems are mobile friendly, include full blogging capability, offer a number of payment gateways and options, support multiple languages, have app capability, and include automatically integrated back office security. These platforms have some flexibility for custom features to be added, and can be integrated into almost any digital marketing advertising tool.

Alternatively, Facebook now offers a purchase button on business pages, allowing for small businesses to share their products on one of the largest social media platforms in the world, and some of the most popular ecommerce websites where products can be offered include Alibaba, Amazon, Craigslist, E-bay and Etsy.

Several payment processing options are available with ecommerce platforms, such as Payline Data, Stripe, Dharma Merchant Services and PayPal. Choosing the best fit for your ecommerce platform may require a little research, since you will also want to consider which options are most secure and what the fees will be.

One of the most common ecommerce payment gateway options is PayPal, which can be used as either the primary payment gateway or as a secondary payment option, since many consumers have PayPal accounts. PayPal has served many small businesses and online marketers as a payment collection option. PayPal’s functionality is the reason it is preferred by so many small businesses and online shoppers. PayPal serves as an online e-bank account where consumers can hold money for use in making online transactions. Small business owners can put PayPal to work just the same as a cash register, where they can generate an invoice and bill clients, collect from clients, and then either hold their revenue in their PayPal account, or transfer their money to a traditional bank account.

Cost will vary between ecommerce platforms. Some require a monthly or yearly subscription flat fee while others will waive the flat fee in exchange for a percentage of the purchase-sale transaction – much like operating a merchant account tied to a credit-debit card terminal. Business owners should consider how many online transactions they project their online store will generate and compare the percentage rate against the flat fee rate. Shipping and handling costs, taxes, and import-export fees (when warranted) will also need to be factored in.

Before deciding on the platform for your small business, consider all of the options, costs, and how well your potential consumers will respond to the ecommerce tool. If the process is overly complicated, you may lose sales if potential customers are not comfortable with the transactional platform.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. 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.”

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Every Small Business Owner is A Farmer

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 9/8/2018, a http://www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: Some believe small business ownership leads to overnight success and immediate wealth, time freedom and social status, when, in fact, the fruits of small business ownership are most often experienced only after years of long hours of toiling and after taking a significant financial risk. We will show how being a small business owner is much like being a farmer.

Small business ownership and farm ownership share many of the same attributes, responsibilities and challenges. The process of growing a business and growing crops in the field are very similar in nature. Most farmers are, indeed, also small business owners, but how is it that small business owners are like farmers?

Much like a farmer, a small business owner must plant the seeds of their future harvest. This means investing into a location, equipment and tools, inventory, and many other aspects of their value proposition before they reap any financial benefit. The small business owner must cultivate the field of potential client prospects and nurture these relationships the same way farmers nurture and provide for their plants, so that in the near future they can benefit from the harvest. The small business owner’s harvest happens when the relationships built with potential clients begin to yield purchases, and the financial exchanges are made for products or services of equal or greater value.

Just like a field of corn or a crop of select vegetables does not grow into a cash crop overnight, the small business owner must also wait for their business to mature. The small business owner must have three qualities that the farmer also possesses – patience, perseverance and vision.  Just as it takes time to grow a quality crop, it also takes time to grow a fundamentally sound business model. During the time in which the crops and business continue to grow, new challenges can arise. The business owner and farmer must both have a plan to deal with these challenges and a willingness to work through the adversity.

Both the farmer and the business owner have an opportunity to sharpen the ax. For the business owner, the downtime in between serving existing and potential clients affords attention to be concentrated on other areas of their business that are critical moving parts of the bigger wheel of small business ownership. Small business owners and farmers must always be looking for ways to make their respective enterprises more efficient. Whether it be dedicating time to education or industry training, development of a marketing-advertising program, or taking some time out to service and maintain equipment and tools, both the farmer and business owner must use downtime to make improvements that will maximize their return on investment.

The business owner and the farmer each have time constraint issues to contend with. The farmer only has so much time to get their ripened produce harvested and to market before the crops spoil. The business owner must also serve his/her customers in a timely manner or put at risk their reputation with the customer. In both situations, the farmer and the business owner must be postured to serve the needs of the customer in the expected time frame that the consumer has set, or they both risk losing the sale. A harvest must be presented to market in a set period of time or the crop becomes unwanted by the market. The same can be said for products or services, as every product or service has a life cycle before it becomes obsolete. New technology is developed each day, and as a society of entrepreneurs, we are always looking to make things better and more efficient for less money.

The farmer and business owner must also be good managers of the tool known as money. A farmer has to know the cost of growing fields of their preferred crops, as well as all of the indirect cost of operating their farm. Farmers must be able to budget their money wisely so that they have enough resources to operate their enterprise until the next harvest provides additional cash flow. Small business owners also must also be good money managers. They must plan and gauge their inventory and/or services, as well as turnover time in between sales cycles and projects, so they too can have enough cash to run day to day operations until the next wave of sales happens. The farmer works on slim margins and knows that a bad year in the fields means a hard year of managing expenses until the next harvest is available. The small business owner must also be prepared for long sales cycles and poor performing seasons.

The business owner and farmer both must be able to see the field full of harvest before they even begin. This is called having vision. The small business owner must have a short term and long term plan for creating a return on their original investment while also pointing to the future of what will happen in a year, three years, and even five years down the road for their enterprise. A farmer stands in the field in early spring, before the first rows have been tilled, and must be able to see the crop that is to be harvested in the fall, even before the first seed is planted. The vision provides the ability to stake a plan of action that brings the series of events into focus that leads both the small business owner and the farmer to the day when they can be proud of the investment they made into their respective fields of practice.

Small business owners are farmers, regardless of whether they own a retail business or a service-oriented business. They must always plant new seeds of potential customers in growing their consumer base, cultivate and nurture business and community relationships, and invest themselves in the “behind the barn” work that is part of the machine of their value proposition to the market. If you want to become a great small business owner, aim to become a farmer first.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. 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.”

Online Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

Source: In today’s multi-media and digital marketing world, small business owners have multiple choices of low-cost/no cost options in promoting their business, in addition to traditional marketing and advertising tools and practices designed to aid the local business in becoming noticed by potential consumers.

Traditionally, before the internet and mobile devices, marketing and advertising options were limited and costly for the small business owner. Most small business owners would look to advertising in the newspaper, on local television or radio, or even handouts and flyers placed on car windshields and in mailboxes. As technology advanced, so did all the methods to stay out front of your competitors and customers. There are several tools online to help a locally owned business promote one’s self which carries little or no cost.

At one time, the standard form of advertisement for a business was to be listed in the Yellow Pages, which was the business-commercial section of the phone book directory. However, times have changed with consumers relying mainly upon their mobile devices more to communicate, and in some cases, not even having a home land line-supported phone. In place of the Yellow Pages are websites and business directories such as Manta, Merchant Circle, and Tap Into.

Manta is a website which lists profiles of local businesses, and allows for consumers to leave a review after their experience of either purchasing a product or service. Manta allows for a business to set up a profile, including spotlighting the services and products a business has to offer. The profile serves as a business card to the digital world. Manta also allows for local ranking of your business based on customer reviews and special awards a business may receive. Manta also has tools which allow local businesses find other resources, and to connect with other small businesses to fulfill operational or vender needs; all this without having to flip through pages of the phone book.

Businesses will benefit from using Manta. A small business can separate itself from the crowd of other similar local businesses by having customer reviews that new potential customers can use as a point of reference in making a buying decision. When new potential clients see a number of positive reviews about a business, they also see local brand loyalty. Repeat customers tell a very different story to the market than having hundreds of one time customers. Manta’s ability for a business owner to see customer feedback and reviews will allow for a business to identify areas of improvement within its business model.

Merchant Circle is another online business listing site. Merchant Circle is a platform that allows for the locally owned business to connect and network with other locally owned businesses, sharing contacts and ideas, while helping to connect the business with potential customers. Merchant Circle had advanced their capabilities beyond just being a local business directory. Merchant Circle has combined the concepts of a local business directory and profiles with the tools of social media and marketing. Businesses can level up and purchase additional marketing services from Merchant Circle, focusing efforts on a specific geographic area.

Local online new sites, such as TAP Into, also offer free business listing directories. TAP Into focuses its hyper-local content in the State of New Jersey and surrounding areas, and is supported by the local business community. Local businesses can list their business contact and location information. Also, businesses can submit press releases to the local editors and publishers, giving businesses the ability to promote an announcement or event.

These sites can help a business in establishing an online content footprint. Businesses that have multiple articles, or key search words or phrases in their business profile description are more likely to rank higher in search engines due to the amount of content. With so many people on the go relying on information at their fingertips from their mobile devices, if your business is not at least showing up on the first two or three pages of search engines, then your business will not be seen by new potential customers. Business listings with Manta, Merchant Circle, and TAP Into drastically change your local small business’s placement within the rankings of search engines. I have even seen businesses that don’t have their own website rank high in search engines because their business profiles are enhanced and provide a lot of detail to potential consumers.

Social media is the place a business should turn to in promoting their business wares and reaching new potential customers. Take your pick, there are many to choose, however, the front-runners for two-way engagement still stands as Facebook leading the way, followed by Linked-in, Google Plus, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Each social media platform offers something different and serves a specific purpose.

They say, a photograph is worth a thousand words. That is where platforms like Flickr, Tumblr, and Instagram have specialized in providing a photo journal online to be shared with family, friends, fellow colleagues, and potential customers. These platforms are designed to allow users to load up photographs in the moment and share them with fan base instantaneously, in hopes of creating a real-time feeling of “I wish I was there,” for the person viewing the picture. This emotional trigger also can work well in creating a product demand in the moment. A business can feature a picture of a spotlighted product, and offer to the first hundred people who comment on the photo, a discount on their next purchase with the merchant.

Video content ranks the highest on the internet. Video content is also the most sought after content in the leading search engines. Every smart phone or mobile device is now equipped to film short video. Small businesses can create their own small videos and post them to various video hosting platforms that will help a business establish a wider internet presence. The most popular of video social media sites is YouTube.

Videos created with the purpose to capture the attention of a new potential customer needs to grab the attention of the viewer within the first 15 to 30 seconds, or you will lose the attention of the viewer. Your video content should also be unique and have a different hook. There are tens of millions of videos posted between You Tube, Vimeo, and Daily Motion, so you will need to be creative in order that your video can be searchable and stand out among the crowd.

If your business does not have a website yet, you need to get one. You can acquire a domain name from Go Daddy for just a few bucks a year. Create-it-yourself website platforms Wix, Word Press, and Web.com, provide several pre-existing templates. The most important pages to have for a very basic website are: a home page or landing page which is the first introduction to visitors about your business and its products/services, a contact us page, which includes the hours of operation, information about your products and/or services, as well as a list of the most popular or unique products/services you provide, and lastly, the about us page, giving visitors a little more information about the business and you as the owner.

Monthly e-newsletters are another way to stay in front of your customers. Email newsletters should not be a large book or difficult to read. It should inform the reader on two or three key areas you desire your customers to focus on about your business. Maybe you’re going to have a product or service sale or host a special event; email newsletter is a great way to keep your customers reminded of your business updates. You can also offer up an informative article (about 200 to 400 words) that will help educate your audience on how to make a better buying decision or create public awareness about a cause your business supports. The online tools and services of Mail Chimp or Constant Contact offer a variety of low-cost options to reach your current clients.

It may seem overwhelming at first that on top of all your other business responsibilities you now must spend time in front of your computer marketing your business, and yes, there are many options to employ. There are tools to help you manage your online efforts. Two tools that will help you measure and manage your online presence are Google Analytics and Hoot Suite. Google Analytics can help you measure your marketing ranking and efforts online, so you can eliminate online marketing that is not the most effective or does not provide a return on investment. Google Analytics will also give you the data you need to enhance the online marketing that is helping create customer flow for your business. Hoot Suite is a digital dashboard that you can use for managing and posting content to multiple social media sites at one time, thus saving you time having to make daily posts to each individual site.

The choice is yours. You can choose to spread your marketing efforts over multiple digital platforms or you can choose to stick to one or two tools. Local businesses that employ multiple online channels to promote their business are usually the businesses that have the most physical foot traffic in their door. Once they are in the door it’s up to you to provide the best experience to keep them coming back and tell their friends and neighbors about you and your business.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

How the Internet Has Affected the Interstate

Source: Right after World War II, in the 1950s, America was on the move. With the completion of the Interstate Highway System, and more families owning more than one vehicle, families took to the open road to explore, connect, and become educated. Six decades later, fewer families see their vehicle as the expression of their freedom; and find access to the world through the internet.

How amazing it is that in just 60 years, how far we have come in declaring our expression of what gives us the tools to feel mobile and free from the confines of our own zip code?

Six decades ago saw the golden age of the auto industry in America; with the Big Three—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler-Dodge dominating the majority of the vehicle ownership sales; where machines and men made America a country that became completely mobile.

Fast forward 60 years and you find the digital technology revolution is helping families become mobile again, and is changing how people define their mobility.

Now in the palm of your hand, one can access information from almost anywhere in the world. They can learn how to cook a specialty dish on Youtube, or read about historical event by “Googling it,” or even watch their favorite movie or television show on the go via an app on their cell phone. One can even shop for a new pair of jeans, pay for it, and have the jeans delivered to their door in less than 24 hours. The interstate has fallen to the internet.

America use to be completely reliant on their vehicle for everything; to go shopping, to pick up the groceries, to go downtown to see a movie, or to go visit a friend. An entire culture was developed around the premise that Americans identified mobility and freedom to travel with their cars. A variety of business models even developed to cater to the rise of the interstate. Service businesses were built around the idea of a driving culture behind the wheel. Drive-in movie theaters, the drive-through fast food take out restaurant window, the roadside attractions all were a reflection of the pride that many had as vehicle ownership.

Vehicle ownership also allowed for the shaping of modern-day suburbs to flourish. The commuter was born. Individuals were no longer relegated job opportunities as far as their local metro transit system (if any even existed) would take them. Vehicle ownership allowed for a person to live in the countryside where homeownership was less costly; as more people found it more affordable to live outside the city, but yet still work there; the car became a vital tool in developing personal wealth.

The family car, the extra car was also seen as a sign of status. At the top, luxury brands of the likes of Cadillac, Mercedes, Jaguar, or Lincoln, would echo and reflect where on the social economic scale an individual would rank. Today, that hasn’t changed, but the vehicle is no longer viewed as the pride and joy as it once was. Today it is treated and viewed more like an appliance; with an expected shelf life and is disposable.

The new status symbol of mobility is the very mobile device that many carry in their pocket. The digital era and the convenience of the mobile device (cell phone, tablet, kindle, etc.), has allowed for people to stand in their living room access the world. With this tool, the internet superhighway is the road that is most traveled over any other physical road in our current society.

Apple, Samsung, and LG are now the Big Three that offer the vehicles that provide access for people to get information, connect with people, and experience life in a way never thought of. The development of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, allow for people to connect with a click of button without having to put an ounce of fuel in the tank or drive not even a mile down the road. Just about any book once found in the library is now found in a digital format that can be read on a screen.

Programs and services like Skype, Google Hang Out, and Go to Meeting, have given people the ability to have one-on-one communications, seeing each other on a screen and hearing their words, where people can be as physical distant as the other side of the world. These services allow for people to communicate and build relationships beyond the boundaries of how far a car can take them, and are limitless to the boundaries of continents.

New businesses that cater to the new form of mobility include a host of app, ranging from apps that allow you to download coupons and deals from your favorite retailer to keeping track of your steps and physical fitness, are downloaded by the millions each day. There is even the business of add-on hardware to keep your mobile device in shape (cases, ear phones, etc.). Not to mention all of the tech improvements that has made the mobile device more functional, integrating camera, internet, video capabilities.

The internet has most certainly captured the imagination of the youth. They have grown up with the idea that the internet is as much as part of their lives as vehicles once did to our parents. Modern generations don’t know any other life but that of the one in the digital age. With the press of a button they can reach people in other countries, find out information on any subject, and view a video related to any interest.

Such technology has even entered the classroom. Virtual learning, by way of connecting by video over the internet allow for students to attend classes and seminars or view lectures from anywhere in the world. The internet has demonstrated it offers mobility to all those young and old regardless if they qualify for a driver’s license.

It once was said, “Mobility is life,” and so when there is a traffic jam on Interstate 80; remember you could have chosen to route yourself by way of wi-fi.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

No Farmer, No Food: Support Your Local Family Farm

Source: Are you hungry for healthy food? Does your current food supply have the right nutrition content? Where do you go to get your supply of fresh produce, dairy, and meats? Do you trust your current food supply? If you have any doubt about your current food supply, you may want to get back to basics and support your local family farm.

Most households get their food supply from the local grocery or convenience store. Communities have been waking up to the notion that they need to be aware of where their food comes from, how their food is raised or made, what chemicals are introduced into their food supply chain, and about the impact in which factory farming and long-distance farming has on the environment. The answer to the demand to better food sourcing has been the rise and acceptance of the local family farm.

Farmers markets have been on resurgence throughout the United States. Parking lots and municipal city centers in just about every Main Street, USA, have played host to a community of healthy living advocates who bring together local family farms, local vendors who have sustainable practices, and green healthy products and services, bridging the gap between local consumers and the farms.

The concept of field-to-table, cutting out commercial factory farming and the supermarket, and even produce grown outside the country, has grown in popularity as individuals take more interest in how to better feed their families. The average local farmers market usually sets up and is open for four to six hours, one day a week.

Family farms that have found value in gaining access directly with the community of customers who are looking for a way to increase the health and well-being of their families, and demand the food they are putting on the table can be trusted. These family farms have expanded their product and services, where once they only grew produce, might also offer honey, jams, and specialty prepared foods.

Multiple studies, both by schools of thought and by non-profit organizations, have proven that the most sustainable method for feeding communities is to support local family farms that can provide their goods and services with minimal need for transporting the food from farm to market.

One of the elements to consider when choosing your produce is “how long has the produced been picked from the field?” As soon as fruit or vegetable is selected and picked from the plant or vine, it no longer can be supplied water or nutrients from the ground. The produce would need to be consumed as close to the time it was picked in order to retain and offer the best nutritional value to the consumer. The longer produce needs to be preserved, the more it is exposed to chemicals (used for food preservation during long distance transport). These chemicals are either introduced during the growing process or they are sprayed on during processing and packaging of the produce.

The local family farm provides a host of solutions in living and eating healthier. The local family farm may wait until the very last minute before picking produce from the vine, which makes their produce the freshest offered in local community. Some family farms do not believe in the use of toxic pesticides or fertilizers ridden with chemicals. Some family farms utilize best organic growing practices, leaving their produce to be of the highest natural quality offered. Some family farms will also only feed their livestock and fowl organic feed and hay, thus allowing for their meat supply to also be free of chemicals.

Some large grocery chains were quick to adopt “from the field to the table” experience, and only source from local regional farmers, and will only offer certified organic fruits and vegetables. Whole Foods and Wegmans Markets were some of the very first to offer organic produce and non-GMO food alternatives. Since the organic healthy living revolution took hold, just about every major grocery food supermarket chain now offers a line of both organic non-GMO and traditional food products.

Though these types of purchasing arrangements assist some local farmers, many are not as lucky. They work eight months in the fields from sun up to sundown, leaving little time to market their goods to large chain stores; thus relying on their own roadside farm stand stores and the local farmer’s market.

Local family farms need your business, and in order to provide balance in the community of healthy living and food supplies, we need them. Take the time to stop in your local farmers market and support a local family farm today. It just might be one of the healthiest choices you make.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

WATER’S OTHER VALUABLE ROLES IN OUR MODERN SOCIETY

Waters-Valuable-roles-1-300x250Published by http://www.H2OEnergyFlow.com, Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author SamBurlum.com

Source: To survive and thrive as a civilization, our reliance upon pure, uncontaminated water goes beyond our drinking needs. Society is equally as dependent upon clean water that comes from trusted sources for commercial and industrial consumption. So how much water is actually required to sustain our society’s needs?

Water – the very essence and building block of life. In our current day and age, many people take one of the most valuable, natural resources we have for granted. Life today is so modernized and fast paced, that rarely do we take time to think about all of the reasons we are dependent on water. Whether it is for drinking or our use of this vital resource for manufacturing products, water is a critical component in the majority of aspects regarding the operations of society. The lack of water in some countries is a matter of national security, as they depend on neighboring nations. Every industry relies on water to manufacture its goods. Water is essential for food production. Even sewage treatment is dependent on water to assist with our waste water management. So how much water is needed to sustain all the moving parts of our society? We will take a look at five essentials within our society where water is most critical in supplying the things we need in order to maintain daily life.

Food production is vitally dependent upon having clean, fresh water supplies for growing crops for our consumption. In the United States alone, there are about 442 million acres of land which are dedicated to farming and raising crops of plants; which includes growing food for humans and for livestock. Many of these crops rely on irrigation when rain seasons fall short to deliver rain water consistently throughout the growing season. Much like our drinking water, water for farming and gardening comes from many of the same sources. Agriculture and horticulture account for eighty percent (80%) of all ground water usage within many of the nation’s region, and up to ninety percent (90%) in some of the western states. In relation to farming, states such as California, Texas, Idaho, and Florida are the largest consumers of water. Their water usage is almost always freshwater, which is a major stress on water left for public drinking water supplies. Water for agriculture does eventually work its way back into the eco-system.

A substantial amount of energy is required when it is produced from thermoelectric energy, which is our second largest source of water consumption. This process of producing energy from thermoelectric involves the use of serious amounts of our water sources. Water is utilized to assist in cooling equipment which aids in the production of electric power. Heat exchangers circulate the water and then return it to its source. Another form of water – steam, is used to turn turbine generators, resulting in the production of electric power. Not all of this water is fresh water. Some of it is sourced from salt water, or saline water.

Water can also be used for hydro-electric power generation. Water for hydro-electric power comes by way of damming up rivers and building hydro-electric power plants that are integrated into the falls of the river. A leading example and most well-known is the Niagara Falls, which was the first hydro-electric power plant in the United States. Niagara Falls relies on overflow from Lake Erie into the Niagara River as well as into Lake Ontario. Another highly recognized example of water being put to work to generate electric power is the Hoover Dam. This dam is situated on the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona. The Colorado river relies on water from melting glacier and ice caps located high in the Colorado Rockies.

Water is necessary for the manufacturing of consumer goods, vehicles, and just about all material items we purchase as modern conveniences. Water is required for mixing paint, which is a base for paints when painting the inside of a home. Water is required to rinse away the left over materials from manufacturing a product, and to wash away any unwanted debris, shavings or millings left behind by the manufacturing process of that particular product. Water is also needed to supply these manufacturing facilities with fresh drinking water for employees, showers in locker rooms, and for restroom toilet facilities. Many manufacturing sites have air conditioning units, due to the nature of the need for a temperature controlled environment; water is used as part of the air conditioning-cooling process. Just the same, these facilities may use water to convert to steam for heating the same facilities.

When manufacturing raw goods, such as metals or plastic, water is one of the most important elements added to the process. Water is used to cool down steel or strengthen it when the hot steel is dipped in water immediately after the shape of the metal has been formed. Utilized as a natural cleaning agent, water is sometimes applied under high pressure to prep materials for their next phase of manufacturing purpose, and sometimes it is mixed with a chemical to sterilize a particular metal for food or medical use. Water is an added ingredient in making plastic, and used to clean plastic parts. Its heavy use in the process of manufacturing on CNC machines is critical, as this resource is projected onto the surface of the widget being manufactured, in order to keep the widget and the drill bit and/or laser cutter cool for accurate manufacturing of the widget.

Water is in high demand in the construction industry. The manufacturing and application of cement and concrete rely upon it. Water is part of the process in making lumber and building materials. The construction industry also depends on its industry partner of mining and quarry for aggregate materials (stone, sand, rock) which is used in erecting buildings and the manufacturing of construction materials. Water is necessary for “washing,” or filtering dust and impurities from aggregate materials. Once buildings are constructed, approved and occupied, many then rely on copious amounts of water sources for maintenance, including irrigating of plants and grounds. Water use for landscaping must be uncontaminated. Golf Courses are the largest consumer of fresh water sources for their buildings and grounds preservation.

One very controversial use of water pertains to the oil industry. This is for a process called hydro-drilling/hydro-fracking; where a deep well is drilled far below the earth’s surface into pockets where oil and gas preserves may be located. These pockets are found in very hard to reach places hidden inside either rock formations and/or softer material caught between large fissures of rock. Fracking fluid, usually consisting of water, other chemical agents, and sand, are put under high pressure then pumped into these crevices where oil and gas exists, forcing these substances to float to the surface. Unfortunately, fresh clean drinking water is used to make the chemical mixture, and there has been little effort on how to remediate the spent water mixture once it has been put to work in the oil and gas wells. To make matters worse, this mixture of material, with a water base, is then left in the ground, and seeps into other ground water supplies, including private wells for drinking water.

Sewage treatment requires not only spent water, as it is part of the sewage, but fresh water that is added to help filter out contaminates. Sewage treatment in the United States is some of the most advanced in the world, yet it still requires fresh water supply. In some countries, which do not have sophisticated and modern infrastructure, sewage is directly dumped into streams, rivers, lakes, harbors, and even water ways reserved for travel. As sewage is introduced into water sources reserved for drinking water, or is also needed for drinking water, larger problems arise. Unsanitary and poisoned water leads to a series of health hazards, some of them catastrophic to entire populations.

Countries without strong sources of fresh, unpolluted drinking water will lack the most fundamental base of an economic engine; manufacturing. Nations that lack water for manufacturing are at the mercy of trade agreements in regards to how much their population will pay for goods and services from other nations. Many countries in the Middle East are without water, or have negligible resources to rely upon. This leaves them forced to utilize other forms of creating value with which to meet their countries’ economic needs, such as tourism, information, technology, and fossil fuels; where fossil fuel exists. Many of these countries purpose to be central distribution and entry points to the region for goods and services from Europe, China, and the US, to the Middle East.

As you can see, there are far more uses of fresh water in our society than one often considers. As a society we usually only focus on what is in front of us; on which pours out of the faucet or comes out of the shower head. The hidden danger is where we waste water in all of the other areas of our lives.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Earth Wind and Fire – The Climate Change Debate Rages On

Source: No matter which side of the climate change debate you might be on, there is one thing for certain—pollution in its many forms does exist, and it originates from man’s bad habits and irresponsible actions when treating Mother Earth with care. When will we claim our misdeeds and begin to turn around the trend? It’s up to us to make that decision . . .

Seems like the jury is still out about climate change and global warming as believers and debunkers on both sides continue to cast their stones toward the other camp, claiming each side and their scientific community have it wrong. The climate change community purports that human activity has significantly affected our planet’s expediency of the rise of global warming, while opponents debate that global warming is nothing more than a natural phenomenon, and human influence would not be able to create such drastic changes to our planet’s atmosphere.

One thing is certain—no matter what side of the debate you may be on, there is no denying pollution or the effects pollution has on our environment, or to our physical health. Pollution is real, and the most dangerous pollution is the kind we cannot see, for it leaves room for much debate and misinterpretation. Just because we cannot always see it does not mean is not there or that it does not exist.

I can share with you first-hand, from testing technology in the lab and in the field, that pollution—especially toxic harmful vehicle emissions—is a real threat. I have been witness to a number of vehicles tested before the application of a green technology, as the vehicle was sold to the vehicle owner from factory. I have then witnessed a number of vehicles tested after having an emissions reduction green technology installed, such as the Smart Emissions Reducer

These tests were conducted with either a five-gas analyzer and/or with a diesel emissions opacity tester (just like the same testing device used for diesel emissions inspections testing). The testing equipment measures a number of toxic vehicle emissions including hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (Nox), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide, and opacity.

Vehicles tested before the device was installed and then after retrofitted with the Smart Emissions Reducer clearly demonstrates that the unseen threat does exists, and it can be mitigated when we choose to allow innovation to do its job.

An article written by Harrison H. Schmitt, an adjunct professor of engineering and at UW-Madison, and William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University, both claim that carbon dioxide is not the worst offender; it is other thicker harmful toxic chemical agents such as the unburnt fuel from vehicle tailpipes which are to blame.

These pollutants are dubbed the invisible killers. Unburned hydrocarbons are a major contributor to air pollution. Harmful toxic vehicle emissions as a part of air pollution have had drastic effects on the health of young children.

A study conducted in Newark, New Jersey, found that children living in Newark are three times are more likely to get asthma as a result of poor air quality. Heavy truck traffic, industrial plants, and the very busy sea port are to blame in the area, as these are major contributors of harmful toxic emissions. One in four children must content with asthma in this New Jersey city, effecting children’s ability to learn. Over a half of million school days are lost by children grades K through 12 as a result of poor air quality in Newark, per research presented to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Dr. Ana Baptista, claims, “More people die of pollution than of gunshot wounds in Newark.” Baptista is a co-chair of the Passaic River Superfund Community Advisory Group.

Newark is not alone in this fight. Other major cities with air pollution issues include Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle; cities that have some of the largest sea ports and highest volume of truck traffic in the region.

There is no denying the facts, regardless of what side you are on of the climate change-global warming debate. By our own behaviors and lack of adopting new technological innovations, we are choking ourselves and our children to death.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Give Mother Earth A Fighting Chance

Our planet currently supports a population of more than 7.5 billion people, resulting in a demand for clean drinking water and quality air that is at an all-time high. Unless society collectively changes its lifestyle habits that affect the environment, Mother Earth will not have a chance to recover from the abuse inflicted by humans for decades.

Earth Day is a reminder that planet Earth belongs to all of us, not just a select few. Every decision—our daily transportation choices, what products we purchase, how much water we consume and how much we waste—has an effect on the entire population, current and future. Although this responsibility may seem to be a heavy burden, there are alternatives to many of our day-to-day decisions that can make a big difference to the planet.

Here are some simple steps that will help create a more environmentally friendly home.

  • Switch from harmful toxic chemical cleaners to nontoxic biodegradable products. This lessens the exposure to toxins in the home environment and reduces the amount of chemical agents that end up in landfills and pollute fresh drinking water supplies.
  • Fix leaky faucets and pipes around the home. Every gallon leaked not only increases the water bill, but also contributes to the waste of clean drinking water supplies, which is limited. Install rain barrels to capture runoff that can be used for watering plants in order to preserve clean drinking water for human consumption.
  • Understand that everything, including waste, has its place. Instead of throwing away food scraps, begin a compost bin in order to transform scraps into valuable soil for gardening and planting.
  • List your unwanted, slightly used household items on a website like Craig’s List or donate them to a nonprofit second-hand store. This enables individuals that cannot afford brand new items to more easily fulfill their needs while repurposing items rather than adding to a landfill.
  • Recycle rather than trash as many items as allowed by your local municipality, including all metal, plastic, glass, paper and cardboard, electronics and other items that are now commonly reused to make renewable products and packaging.
  • Consolidate errands and plan accordingly to streamline your trips for efficiency, which conserves fuel and saves time and money. If your commute is less than a mile or two away, consider walking, riding a bike or even car pooling with a friend. Those living in rural communities that require a vehicle for transportation may want to purchase a vehicle higher in fuel efficiency, or purchase a green technology retrofit in order to make their existing vehicle more fuel efficient while also decreasing its toxic emissions.
  • Commit to teaching the younger generations about the importance of environmental stewardship and their responsibility to live a lifestyle that lessens their negative impact on Mother Earth. All the practices and methods of preserving the environment and conserving our most important natural resources can be passed down to our children and our children’s children. This is needed in order to continue the legacy of helping Mother Earth recover from years of abuse, while also preserving resources for future generations to come.

If we all take small steps in changing our daily habits with regards to how we treat water, waste and energy, we will have made a big difference collectively in giving Mother Earth a fighting chance.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Product or Service; Which Do You Choose to Offer?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 02/15/17, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: Now that you have decided on the type of business you desire to own, a small business owner must carefully consider which products and/or services it will offer to potential customers. Do you want to have a retail business, or do you want to be a service based provider? There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of business offering situation.

Making the decision to become a business owner is a substantial undertaking. After the initial decision to do so, you will need to give consideration to the next steps which include your specific industry interest, and then whether you desire to offer a product or a service, or both. Owning a business that sells products can be a costly investment depending on the type of business you are planning on opening. On the other hand, selling services that are intangible relies on your ability to transfer confidence about your expert skill sets. In choosing whether to offer a product or to be a service oriented business, there are advantages and disadvantages with the types of value proposition offerings.

Developing a business that sells products can offer several advantages in terms of business growth and financial reward. Products are tangible items (they can be held in one’s hand prior to any financial exchange), allowing an individual to identify with a product quicker since they can use their senses to make a judgement and a decision to purchase the product. You can see what a product looks like, how it tastes (if is a food product), how it smells, how it sounds (if it makes sounds), how it feels (like clothing or a tool that you hold in your hand).  Consumers have an opportunity to visually inspect the product they may choose to purchase, which allows for consumers to elevate their risk by taking a chance on the product.  Products are simpler to validate by the potential end user. The customer has an out if they are not happy with their purchase; usually they can return the item to the store.

A customer can predict what the expectation might be based on previous purchases of the same or similar product. There is a sense of product continuity, that each time a customer purchases a said product, they feel more comfortable based on their previous buying decision. This leads to a quicker closing rate on the sale of the product. If someone chooses not to purchase the product, then it can be reserved for the next potential customer.

Most national brand products already have large marketing machines in place to drive public awareness and educate potential customers about the product you might offer in your store. So having these products in your store where there is already an existing market demand increases the chances of potential foot traffic to your store. The product business relies on brand recognition.

In today’s market, products can be sold globally, and shipped just about anywhere. Store owners are no longer limited to just their own zip code. With product sales, advertising and marketing can be targeted toward a larger demographic and geographic set of potential clients. The name of the sales game for products is to sell product in either large volume to a small number of clients or take many small orders from a high volume of clients.

The downside of a product based business is initial investment into a store location and the upfront cost of inventory. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the average cost per square foot of retail lease space in 2015 was per $41 square foot.  Ace Hardware advocates that the optimum store size should be 10,000 square foot, which could be quite costly for many new business owners just beginning. The investment needed to fully stock a new hardware store or family owned pharmacy that is capable of competing against a big box retailer location will cost a small business owner up to millions of dollars in order to be ready to open their doors, and have ample supply of goods available for consumers. In today’s market, consumers demand more product choices in multiple product categories, so stores must offer the customer service model of convenience. This allows the business owner to make available these multiple choices and product mix to potential customers in order to be dubbed the “one stop shop”.

When your business is a product driven model, there are additional risks you must be aware of. Even if you have the proper funding to fill your store and/or warehouse full of inventory, there are still the issues of shrink and loss due to damages. Shrink is internal theft from employees, which does happen. An employee may not think it’s a big deal to remove a product for their own sample use, however, when that employee does not account for the product, it results in shrink. Some employees do intentionally steal products from their employers, as they feel one box or one can will not hurt anyone, but it does when it adds up in the loss column.

Damaged inventory is also a loss to the store owner. Inventory that is either shipped or received damaged, is inventory lost. Most damages happen during the shipping process of inventory to and from the warehouse, as sometimes a forklift operator may have not noticed they misjudged moving a pallet of product around, and it becomes dented and damaged.

Some disadvantages of having a product based business can be overcome, allowing for higher profitability and customer satisfaction. Having an accurate inventory control system in place will allow for you to house just the right amount of inventory in your store, based on historical consumer data, thus limiting the risk of having overstocked an item. By offering a program to your clients that they can order whatever they need, which is not yet stocked in your store, with a two or three day turn around will allow for you to still service the sale, while not having to stock everything that may not sell on a regular basis.

Employee training on the importance of monitoring shrink as well as reviewing the best practices in logistics, shipping, receiving, and warehousing, will assist you in decreasing lost or damaged inventory.  There is no getting around the cost of renting space, however there are some things you can do to get more for your rental dollar, such as negotiating for grounds keeping services, community fees, and other areas of financial value in your lease agreement.

Today, it’s not just about what is on the shelf at your store front. There are several online tools available in marketing a product over the internet, allowing you to make contact with potential clients outside your physical store location’s zip code. Amazon has become the premier platform of choice for selling merchandise online by local merchants; followed by EBAY, and other partnered sales sites such as Keep America.com which promote products that are manufactured stateside. With the evolution of online commerce and social media marketing, the traditional brick and mortar store front is only half of the available opportunity for many locally owned retailer merchants offering unique brands and/or specialty product.

Marketing a product based business has more options for the business owner. A business owner can piggyback on national product recognition and ad campaigns in creating awareness that these popular products are at his or her store. If your store is part of a cooperative group, the cooperative group usually supplies a recipe for investing into local brand awareness in contrast to other competing products and stores. Marketing and advertising options are endless. You must ask yourself, what are you really selling? In many cases products have a brand identity that must accompany the product.

The cost of setting up a product based business varies depending on a number of variables. These costs will be driven partially by the decision you the business owner makes. Do you choose to sell a limited product line from home as an internet based business or are you prepared to open up a full blown retail location, with tens of thousands of product selections? Do you start small with a limited store front or do you take a chance and open a large retail location? How many employees do you think you will need in the beginning to staff your operation or do you start off as the single owner-operator?

Some new business owners opt to offer their expertise as well as their skill sets in the form of services offered. The upside to owning a business that is more service oriented is that you have minimal, if any inventory to stock. Your services offered are not limited to the product’s limitations. For example, if your service business is building decks, you can design and build a deck according to the vision the potential client may have. A service business allows for the business owner to be more personalized and creative when providing services to each individual client. Your service should focus on solving a customer’s need in which they may not have the skills or expertise in providing for themselves. In essence, the business owner and what he or she can do for the client is the product they are selling, along with selling themselves; as in their character, reputation, and expertise.

For instance, if you offer business consulting services, your start-up costs are low, however your upfront investment is the years of experience, education, and understanding of how a business works. These are the tools of the trade. If you decide to begin a property maintenance business, you will have to invest into lawn and building maintenance equipment, a service truck or two, and you may have to hire some help depending on the job at hand.

Your services will be more targeted; as your goal is not to have the highest volume of clients, but the highest rate of quality client demand that results in higher revenue. A service based business will focus on more personalized and customer needs rather than the average cookie cutter mass produced model. This type of model will allow for service based business owners to network with the most desired potential clientele. Service businesses must directly market to specific clients, and usually will prospect for customers inside a radius within the business’s home location. For example, a landscape and property maintenance business would not market to potential customers thousands of miles away, for the obvious logistical reasons that would make the endeavor not profitable for the business owner. Your goal is to provide the highest quality of services to the highest quality of clients, in performing the most work for a smaller list of clients.

A service business can opt not to have a store front. Most service businesses which surround home services (a masonry, carpentry, or landscaping business) many times operate out of their home; saving cost on a rental location. Other service based businesses like a hair salon or dry cleaner, rely on having a retailer location that allows for walk in foot traffic. A service business will focus on the need of the client, where the business is providing a service or skill set the potential client may not possess themselves.

Because a service is intangible, it may be more difficult to connect and close deals with potential customers of your service if they cannot visualize the final result of the service you offer. Potential clients may be hesitant of purchasing a service even if their need of the service is great, because they cannot physically evaluate the outcome of their own buying decision. A service based business will experience a longer sales cycle because there is usually price and service negotiations, client contracts to review, and final review of the services provided, which in some cases will hold up final payment to the business owner.

Potential customers will rely on judgement calls when purchasing a service. Is the service provider trustworthy? Is the service provider of good character? Potential clients have a clear understanding that they cannot return a service once its provided, so they are more cautious in making a decision. For this, most potential customers will desire to get the most dollar value out of the service they are purchasing, since the value proposition is beyond just the service itself. The consumer realizes that part of the value exchange is the experience of the journey through having the service provided to them.

Service based businesses can overcome their unique challenges by offering the client a trial period for their services; giving the potential client the feeling they have an out if they are not happy with the service. This helps in removing some of the barriers that tend to go up during the negotiation of the purchase of a service. Providing a list of referrals and references which the potential customer may call would be prudent. It would also be most helpful if the referrals and references are current clients of the business that have already purchased the same or similar services to fulfill their needs. The importance of this is to communicate confidence to the prospective client that whether the sales representative (who may or may not also be the business owner), would be involved in providing the service, or if there are other individuals involved in providing a service, there is a quality connection of skills and service made through this business transaction.

A service is more challenging to promote, because there is nothing physical someone can hold in their hand. When marketing a service, it is more at the conceptual level of what the potential outcome and experience could be for the potential client. When pitching a service, the business owner must convey the message and the value of the service they are going to provide, clearly. The business owner must be able to be flexible and adjust their service offering to each client situation, for no situations are alike. Granted, if you are in the business of selling dry cleaning services, each individual client will have different needs; attention to the slightest of details will make all the difference whether or not the client returns to that dry cleaner in the future. The service industry relies on personal relationships and reliability. The potential client must have total confidence and belief in your ability to deliver upon your promises and skill sets. Therefore, it is necessary to provide your “why you are passionate about your business” and how that helps you deliver the best services available to your clients.

The start-up cost of service based business is much lower than that of a product based retailer location. Depending on the type of services your business will offer, will determine the type of investment you will need to make in order to fulfill customer demand.  The startup cost of a service provider will also depend on the type of industry and service offered.  In comparison, someone that wants to start up a landscape business will have far more up-front investment cost in equipment than someone that is providing consulting services to other businesses. A service business usually has to invest more money into marketing and branding their own individual brand identity, because in many cases of the service business, the business owner and their skill sets are the brand.

In either case, both a product and/or service based business boils down to a few basic concepts; you must have what someone else wants, which fills a need and provides an experience desired by the consumer. You can assure yourself of one thing – there is no reward without some level of risk, so regardless of product or service, all levels of business ventures require a cash investment, an investment of time, and an investment into knowledge of the industry by the business owner.

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, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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