What is Network or Direct Selling?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 6/22/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Selling, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business, Sales Opportunities

Source: One of the most common at-home business opportunities is the direct sales network marketing of products offered by a parent organization. Direct sales or network marketing has received a bad rap in the past, where advocates and adversaries share their pros and cons about this business model. We take a look at what networking marketing and direct selling opportunities are.

Network marketing/direct selling companies offer their products and/or services by employing a business model that includes a number of independent representatives or marketers who promote the parent company and its product line. The first method in which network marketers earn an income is based on sales commissions for product sales of the affiliated parent company. This applies to both single-level and multi-level marketing business models. Network marketers can then earn additional income from building an “organization” or “downline,” which consists of a network of other individuals they recruit to also sell the parent company’s products, making this the “multi-level” business model.

Multi-level marketing organizations have been pitched under a number of monikers. Some of the most common other names for multi-level marketing are network marketing, direct selling, community marketing, referral marketing, pyramid selling, person-to-person marketing, and relationship marketing. Network marketing or direct selling have been the most common terms dubbed since multi-level marketing has been associated with negative perception of the industry as a whole.

Some of the most successful and longest standing direct selling businesses include Avon, Amway, Primerica, May Kay Cosmetics, Legal Shield, and Shaklee. Within the past forty years, the number of network marketing companies that offer products and services have exploded to an all-time high. There are well over fifty companies today that dominate the multi-level marketing landscape, and there are no signs of the industry slowing down.

Billions of dollars in product and service sales have been made for these companies as a result of this business model. In 2015, the industry posted $183.7 billion dollars in sales worldwide. Collectively, these companies claim that over $73.4 billion dollars (roughly 40%) of gross revenue was paid directly to “distributors,” who are the network marketers themselves. The majority of the industry’s sales were collected in the United States, with twenty to thirty percent of all sales having taken place stateside. The industry also did well in China, which is the industry’s second largest market, followed by South Korea, Germany and Japan.

So what makes the industry so attractive? Career marketers will tout there are multiple benefits to becoming involved in network marketing organizations. Network marketers claim the main reason for their decision to join network marketing is because of its unique business model and the flexibility the industry offers.

Network marketers can earn unlimited commissions with most multi-level marketing companies, as well as paid performance bonuses when sales goals are met; and are also paid a percentage on sales from their downline. A common claim of advantage in Network marketing is the sense of owning a business without the hassle of a brick and mortar location, so very little financial investment is required in comparison to the capital necessary to start up a traditional retail or service oriented business. Network marketers have the flexibility to create their own schedule, and are not limited to any one geographic location.

Other terms coined for the sales force of independent sales people that make up a direct selling organization include: distributors, marketing consultants, promoters, representatives, independent business owners, independent contractors, marketing directors, and relationship coordinators. Some of these terms have been viewed by former network marketers as misleading, because the network marketer does not directly own part of the parent company; and many of the network marketers do not operate their venture in an official business structure (such as a corporation or limited liability company). Instead, network marketers are encouraged to register a business name and obtain a tax identification number, so the parent multi-level marketing company can pay a business entity versus paying an individual. This is where the phrase “getting into the business” was developed.

Traditionally, network marketers would introduce the parent company’s products and/or services to potential consumers directly by word of mouth advertising. Some of the most popular forms of this word of mouth advertising would come in the form of “home parties,” where the network marketer would set an appointment to host a home party (or have a family member, friend or acquaintance host the party for product discounts or gifts), and invite guests to attend the party. At the home party, family and friends would gather to share in refreshments and would view the presentation made by the network marketer, who would also showcase the parent company’s product lines and take orders from the invited guests that attended. Once the product orders were available, the network marketer would deliver the products to their customers.

With the coming of the Information Age, the Digital Age, and the Age of Mobile Devices, network marketing has become far more complex, with a host of new direct marketing tools and techniques. Individuals can now sell products and recruit members for their downline from anywhere in the world that the parent company is set up to do business with. Social media has given rise to the growing number of network marketers, where one may expect to see the latest pitch in their news feed or receive a private message from someone who is trying to share the MLM product line or opportunity that they have chosen to partner with.

Just as the methods in reaching potential customers and recruits have advanced, so have the systems used by both single-level and multi-level marketing business models. Most of these companies now offer direct ship programs for their products, so the network marketer no longer has to hand deliver personal orders to customers. Multi-level marketing companies have also integrated back offices, online dashboards and apps, allowing for the network marketer to go paperless while managing their organization or downline. They have also made many of their tools available online to their network marketers, eliminating the need to purchase clunky marketing kits for personal use; and have become more transparent in recent years, providing financial reports, sales commission reports, and earnings in real time for network marketers to review.

Even with the advancements in technology, marketing tools, training, and the many success stories throughout the network marketing industry, the MLM industry and business model is still viewed negatively by many. Some claim that network marketing companies are nothing more than pyramid schemes that prey on people that are hopeful and looking for a remedy for their financial duress or other personal challenges. It is important to note, however, that some of the most successful MLM companies are also those that have come under the most criticism.

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 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.

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Small Business Ownership vs. Entrepreneurship

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 6/8/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Crowdfunding, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

Source: So, which are you – a Small Business Owner or an Entrepreneur? We compare the similarities and differences between the two, so you can decide which category you best fit into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who are the Voices for Small Business?

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 6/2/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Effective Crowdfunding Techniques

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 5/22/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Crowdfunding, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is Fashion So Important?

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 5/17/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: business, community, fashion, clothing, financial investment, social-economic status

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Crowdfunding Options for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 5/8/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Crowdfunding, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Quick Tips for a Professional Look

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 4/2/2018, www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Company Policy, Company Standards, Free Enterprise, Job Market, Interview, Professional

Source: Do you want to be viewed as the professional in the bunch? Standing out of the crowd is not necessary a bad thing when it comes to being a professional at work. Here are some basic tips on how you can elevate your game.

It seems in today’s business climate just about anything goes, as many companies have relaxed restrictions on dress code, style, and what is appropriate in the work environment. Companies have left it to their employees to be discrete in their choices and appearance in the workplace. In a competitive job market, one should always strive to be at their best so that they stand out from the crowd in commanding more respect in the workplace. Employers do appreciate when their staff takes it upon themselves to appear more professional. Here are eight quick tips on how to achieve that professional look regardless of budget.

1). No Jeans, No Wrinkles, No Hats…Regardless of how casual the work environment may be, never wear jeans. For most managers it is a turn off. Take some time to iron out those wrinkles. Nothing says I am lazy more than putting on a wrinkled shirt, blouse, or jacket. Hats are for your day off and are meant to be worn outside, even though some may be stylish, you want the focus to be on you not with what is on your head.

2). Remove all distractions/cover up skin… If you have some crazy flashy set of earrings, or other loud jewelry, you will want to remove them until later, especially if you are going to participate in a job interview. Men should be wearing warm color ties, nothing with sports team logos or lots of brightly colored patterns. Conservative is best. If you have highly visible tattoos on your arms, legs, and neck, you may want to consider a long sleeve shirt, suit pants, and maybe a scarf or a shawl. Never wear short shorts, tank tops, or other clothing that is too revealing.

3). Be mindful with make-up…leave the smoky eye look for the club or after work out with your friends; you will want to look natural and subtle. Nothing with glitter or sparkles, again that should be left for your evenings out. Natural and neutral colors work well for blush, lipstick, and eyes. Sexy is great, just not in the workplace.

4). Shoes fit for the job…It’s always safe to wear what is appropriate for the matching workplace; for instance, in an environment that is more of a shop and warehouse, you would not want to hear clunky heels, or wear open toe sandals in an area that has potential hazards. Likewise you would not wear loafers or sneakers when you really need work boots. In an office environment you will want to wear a comfortable yet professional shoe. If you are out in the field or hitting the streets, then a walking shoe is more appropriate. In any case, you don’t want to wear anything that might be awkward to walk in. Make sure to keep your shoes in good shape, shined and scuff free.

5). Facial hair for the men…Some work places do not allow for mustaches and beards. Go online before you apply to see what their policies are on such matters. If no policy is listed on their website or in their company handbook, then best assumption is to keep mustaches and beards and sideburns neat and orderly. Handlebar mustaches usually seen at the carnival need to stay there. Beards should be neatly trimmed and manageable. Nothing is worse than meeting with an employer or client while having unkempt long locks hanging from your chin and neck.

6). Hair for the ladies…Remember this is the workplace, not the red carpet or an evening out on the town. You will want to be as conservative as possible. Depending on your profession, you may be on the go, or in an office all day, depending on how fast pace the work environment is, you will not have much time to manage your hair. Pick an appropriate hair style that works for you, yet is professional for the office. If you have questions, consult with your hair stylist and/or beautician for ideas.

7). Hair for the men…Some men have long locks, which is fine, however you may want to tie your hair up in a ponytail for the workplace. The usual rule of thumb for men’s hair in the work place is if you cannot see your ears, it’s time to visit the salon or barber shop. No bright color dyes, mohawks, spikes, or rooster tops. Remember professional; you don’t want to scare off your clients and or your co-workers, managers, etc.

8). Black, blue, gray, and natural tones…most work environments will either require you to comply with their casual work uniforms, and/or professional attire. The most common color combos for suits, sport coats, jackets, pants, and other attire are black, blue, gray, and natural tones. No loud colors. You want to be as approachable as possible and inviting to conversations. Color combos of red and black can be too intimidating, pastels may be too lax.

Before any job interview, it is always wise to research a company’s human resources policy related to their dress code.

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.

Money Saving Tips Any Business Can Put into Practice

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 3/22/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: There is an old saying, “To be profitable is to save money.” A small business needs every advantage it can get when it comes to trimming expenses and unnecessary cost. Here are a few savings tips for every business.

During tough economic times and a very competitive business climate, Small Business Owners are doing all they can to conserve cash and increase accountability of the best use of their working capital so that they avoid watching their margins of profit from slipping away in between the floor boards. “A penny (or dollar) saved is a penny (or dollar) earned,” so here are a few tips a small business can adopt in order to save on fees, interest payments, and other bills that seem to cut into an owner’s profit margins.

1). Do away with debit/credit card use-switch to a reimbursement system. Banking institutions have switched their business model to a fee based revenue generation machine; which is different from when banks mainly profited from interest payments and fees attached to loans and loan servicing. Every time you use your debit/credit card, there is a transaction fee, either at the merchant and/or at the bank, and sometimes both. Ever use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank? You will find in those cases multiple usage and service fees from ATM Vendor, the bank it is associated with and your own bank. Some of these fees range from mere twenty or thirty cents upwards to three or four dollars.

To avoid watching these fees and service charges cutting into your profits, stop using debit/credit cards for every little business transaction. Also if you have multiple employees you will want to limit their usage of these cards as well. Use a draw of petty cash that is withdrawn from the bank in person. Use cash on smaller transactions under $100 when applicable. As it relates employees, you can set up a system in which they front the initial expenses they incur on behalf of the business, such as tolls, parking, gas, lunch or dinner meetings with clients, postage, and other purchases that make up the vast amount of small transactions. Once a week, have each employee submit their receipts to the company accountant for reimbursements and issue them a check for these expenses. Less usage of debit/credit cards means less fees you are charged.

2). Pay your vendors and/or suppliers early. Many of your vendors and/or suppliers may be on 30, 60, or even 90 day payment terms with your business. This allows for your business to have the time it may take to sell inventory or service a client account before you have begun covering your cost of goods sold. Many distributors, vendors, and/or suppliers do offer a discount if payment is received before the 30 day window. Usually the offered amount is 2% discount if a bill is paid within 10 to 15 business days. If such terms are offered, pay your bills early to take advantage of these discounts.

If your business has a burn rate of say $10k per month, 2% is $200 saved per month ($2400 a year). That is $200 that is found money which can be applied to other parts of your monthly budget, such as marketing and advertising. If your vendor and/or supplier does not yet offer you early payment terms, negotiate this upfront with them. This is a small concession they will be glad to offer in keeping you as a client. It is of no risk to them. Most vendors or suppliers are accustomed to not receiving payments until 30 days after they are due.

3). Pay your credit card balances on time and/or in full. Most Small Business Owners utilize credit cards as a form of business credit to keep their business afloat in between getting paid by clients. Most small business owners and managers often take credit card offers that provide “interest free,” or “low interest” on credit that is borrowed. Many of these deals are contingent on payments being made on time and/or in full. When only the minimum balance is paid, a small business owner now loses the low interest deal they first had when they acquired the card. To avoid these increases in interest rates and service fees, pay the balance off in full and on time.

Another practice you can try in saving money when using credit cards, is to call the credit card provider themselves and negotiate a “one time balance paid in full” when you have a high balance and are looking to close your account. Credit card companies would rather receive payment on an account that is closing than have it sent to collections. Usually if you get a manager or supervisor on the phone, you can ask to negotiate a final settlement offer. This saves you money in fees, interests, and charges, and clears the credit card company of the account.

If you are using credit cards to make purchases for business growth needs, consider joining a barter exchange that has a multitude of businesses connected to their network in which you can engage in. Barter is interest free.

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.

 

The World’s Demand for Alternatives to Traditional Currency

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/5/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: With technology ten steps ahead of the market, even more options for paying bills have become readily available for both the consumer and for the merchant. We explore the many options payment options a business may choose to accept.

Two factors have changed the way we conduct commerce and financial transactions in the world over the past fifty years. The leading factor is the faith that people now have in traditional currency. Many countries, their money supply is based on one factor: faith; the belief that the value of the piece of paper or coin is a true representative of the value of good and/or services they wish to purchase.

Prior to what is known as “fiat currency,” money supply that is backed by no hard good, commodity, or tangible asset, that is widely accepted as a mark of trade, such as precious metals like gold or silver; Most countries would back their value of their currency on tradable commodities which had a real market value.  In recent years, crude oil and petro chemical fuels were used to support currency, while these same currencies were used as the preferred measuring stick against oil. Such is not the case anymore, now that even tying the US Dollar to fossil fuels has become volatile.

With such conditions changing, more individuals are sharing their concern, vocalizing how they have less faith in a piece of paper, which is backed by nothing.

Another trend that is leading people to explore other currency options is the development of technology. Today there are more options on how to make a financial transaction for a good or service. Beyond credit and debit cards, e-wallet and electronic paying systems such as Pay Pal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay. Crypto-currencies are also on the rise. Bitcoin and One Coin have become the top ranked electronic currencies, and merchants are racing get their business into the fold into accepting these new forms of payment.

However one form of a financial transaction that is as old as men and trade itself, is also still on the rise. Barter is growing at a faster pace due to advancements in technology, organizational set ups, wide spread networking, and oversight from two leading barter-industry trade organizations.

With the improvements into accountability and infrastructure, barter has never been so much easier. Traditionally one business or individual would trade services or products with another party that may too have a product or service to offer in the actual exchange. This limited barter, because if one party did not need the other party’s offering, then the exchange could not take place. Today the use of a credit system has widened up the scope in the barter arena. Barter exchanges have made it easier to use barter for many business to business purchases.

Exchanges such as Badger Barter, located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Badger Barter offers a barter exchange that includes well over 600 business; range from auto repair to graphic design; from legal counsel and services to website creation. These types of exchanges have evolved over time to include many member benefits in which traditional barter did not offer.

As a small business, you should be exploring all payment options, in addition to traditional payments of debit, credit, cash, and check. Barter is a viable way to conduct business to business transactions and opens the door for new business relations to develop within barter exchange networks. Some retailers are now accepting Apple Pay, Android Pay, Pay Pal, Bitcoin, and Onecoin. However barter is considered one of the best options since most barter exchanges offer a credit system, allowing you to use the barter on a wider selection of products and/or services.

Barter is not only a form of payment; it is also a marketing tool. There are businesses that seek out other businesses that offer Barter payment options. You should notify your clients about all of the payment options you offer in multiple touch points. Including but not limited to a placard at the cash register/counter; logo of the barter exchange on your website, social media, and e-mail newsletters; logo on store front window, print advertising, business cards, invoices, and other forms signage a client may see at your establishment.

Bloomberg Business had researched and found that over $12 billion dollars in goods and services were traded without any currency changing hands in 2012. Research showed that not every transaction conducted was on business essentials however the barter was still utilized. Even when the most obscure product or service was offered, the bartered item eventually would find a relative home. Another part of the study revealed that Small Businesses mainly spent their barter in exchange for: marketing and advertising; legal and professional services; facilities maintenance; office supplies; and construction/renovation services; which are many of the same expenditures a small business might use proceeds from a working capital loan for.

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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