Five Great Reasons to Start Your own Business in 2014

20 Ways to Kick Stress to the Curb and Have Fun with Your StartupFor many people, owning their own business is a dream they’d really like to make into reality—sometimes, all that is needed is a little more information. We’re halfway through 2014, but there is still time to get the ball rolling. If you are still reticent in making that final decision, here are five great reasons to start your own business this year. Continue reading

It’s in the Mail: What Your Brand’s Packaging is Telling Consumer

In my recent infatuation with a startup software company, I discovered their new venture into creating physical products. Across all the products, the design was simple, utilitarian, yet sexy. Obviously, I was in love and quickly placed an order.

When I received the product in the flesh, I believed there had been a mix-up at the post office. The plain, brown packaging soiled the joy of finding the attractive product inside. Although I certainly loved the product, there was a certain injustice done to the beauty of the product and, ultimately, the brand.

Oftentimes people forget that the first experience a consumer has with the brand isn’t actually the product, it’s what holds it- which is why your brand’s packaging is so important. As much as we all try not to judge a book by its cover, there is a reason why the saying exists: because we naturally do. When looking at your product, ask only one question: “How will the customer feel?” If the answer isn’t the one you’re looking for, then perhaps it’s time for change.

Here are the two things you need to concentrate on to package the perfect product:

Focus on the Message

If your packaging hasn’t been updated in awhile, there is a good chance that it suffers from information overload. Potential customers today have a new baseline for content attentiveness, one that is much lower than most companies would like. When considering options for a redesign, focus on one core message that should be crystal clear from the packaging. Reducing content allows consumers to immediately connect with the intended message without having to visually search through useless clipart or obvious text.

An added benefit of converting the message into imagery alone not only brings clarity to the product, but makes international appeal a seamless process. Famous brands like Starbucks have already made this adjustment by relying on their logo for universal recognition, rather than having English words limit their brand. Although this approach might feel risky or vague, trust your brand enough to let it draw attraction on its own accord.

Craft the Experience

When Steve Jobs designed the iPhone packaging, some questioned his characteristic obsessive nature as he scrutinized over how fast the bottom would separate from the top cover. While such measures may be extreme, the genius was in crafting the experience for the consumer.

The exhilaration from a purchase doesn’t end with the swipe of a credit card. The joy of something new continues with the unboxing that can only be compared to tearing the wrapping paper off a present. Humans are emotional creatures, and we love presentation as much as we do the item itself. Without it, the overall impression of the brand sours. Take the time to open current products and decide if the packaging presents the item with the magnitude it deserves or if the emotion is underwhelming.

Good design means being simple and honest with the customer. Showcase without overselling, and always keep the message razor focused. Remember that not all consumers are subjected to online content, which means in some cases the package itself is the first and only chance a company gets to make the right impression. However there is a reason why there are guidelines rather than “to do” lists for package design, because not every product needs to come out of an iPhone box. Stay true to emotional impact, and your customers will certainly feel what was intended.

A box is never just a box.

Hilary Smith is an online writer and business journalist from Chicago, Illinois. In addition to covering the many aspects that make a successful brand, her writing also covers entrepreneurship, small business, unified communications, and globalization. Connect with her on Google Plus today.

5 Real World Networking Tips You Can’t Do Without

How Quick Business Loans Can Encourage Business TurnaroundThere are two main levels of networking for the modern-day entrepreneur: virtual and real-life. While virtual ties have their own strengths, the strongest partnerships and the deepest trusts are still built in the real-world. That is why, as an entrepreneur, you should want to go beyond your virtual network and build stronger ties offline. Start your real-world networking today with the help of these tips: Continue reading

ABCs of Small Business Industry: C is for Chiropractor

runnerChiropractic practices have been around since the days of ancient Greece. From the beginning, we’ve been manipulating our spines and extending our extremities to relieve back pain. Though as ancient and historical as those methods are, the business aspect of being a chiropractor has changed a little bit over the years.

With today’s Small Business Industry post, we’ll take a closer look at what’s happening with the chiropractic industry right now. Continue reading

Six Tips for Working with Designers To Get Awesome Results

Website DesignGood design can do so much to communicate complex information about your brand or company. It serves a purpose, sells an idea and can cut straight through to the target audience. So how can you ensure you get great results on your next design project? Well, being a great communicator is a great place to start.

At DesignCrowd – the design community I help manage – we’ve launched thousands of design projects and the most successful ones were a result of clear, concise briefs and regular feedback. Here’s how you can work smarter not harder with a designer to get a great result for your design project!

 Don’t miss the mark, get clarity - If your goals are not clear and your requirements are confusing, designers will find it hard to decipher what you want and you’ll end up with a design that misses the mark. Share as much as you can about your business or organization (describe your products or services), who your target market is and what key messages, ideas, emotions or attitudes you want the design to convey.

Get technical – You’re crowdsourcing design online so be as precise as you can about specific branding colors (CYMK, Pantone); and where your design will end up being viewed – is it online or in print? Tell the designer your requirements for size, format, resolution/pixels, file types, font types. If you want it, ask or it.

Be present and responsive – The best client-designer relationship is reciprocal. Try to give regular, concise feedback about the designs you receive. You can use email, instant messaging, Skype or online feedback tools to give feedback on style, color palette, typography, and layout of the design concept. If you don’t like a concept than eliminate the design so that the designer can move on and you can focus on getting the design you want.

Visualize your ideas – Designers are hyper-visual. Talk their language by getting ‘moody’.  In other words knock up a quick presentation that displays samples of design concepts you do like. Include patterns, shapes, colors, styles to packaging design, logo design, imagery and more that captures your idea. Useful presentation tools include apps like Pinterest, or you can go old-school and create a PowerPoint to share your ideas with designers.

Communicate concepts to avoid – Telling designers what you don’t want seems counter-intuitive but if you think about it there are probably a bunch of design trends, colors, styles, and more that you want designers to avoid. State this clearly in your brief or include a section in your mood board that includes ‘don’t likes’ – and don’t worry, constraints are good for creativity and innovation.

Leverage the talent – Your designer should be the first port of call for advice and tips if you have hired them directly.  If you’re crowdsourcing design, email or phone the client support team for support, and utilize these support channels if you get stuck.

If you want to refresh your brand or perhaps you have a new design project in mind, following these six tips will ensure you get a design you’ll love.

We also encourage you to take advantage of the special deal that we have prepared for MyCorporation members.  Click here to unlock the deal!

Josephine Sabin is the community manager at DesignCrowd, a crowdsourcing marketplace with offices in San Francisco, Sydney and Manila offering professional logo, web and graphic design – powered by over 400,000 designers and artists from around the globe.

Business Basics – Estimated Tax Payments

Estimated tax payments are one of the biggest shocks for new business owners. They know that they have to pay taxes, they just don’t realize they have to send in a check four times a year! Most businesses that expect to more than $1,000 – or $500 if the company is incorporated – in taxes have to make estimated payments to the IRS. And, since the next quarterly payment is due on September 15th, we thought it’d be a good idea to do a quick rundown of what estimated tax payments are.

Estimated Tax Payment

What are estimated tax payments?
Exactly what they sound like. These payments are simply what you’d normally owe on your income. However, since you don’t have an employer to withhold and send in what you owe, you have to do it instead.
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How to Crowdfund Legally

Limited Liability PartnershipStarting a new business is an exciting venture! That is, until the realization of just how much money you will need takes you down a few notches. Before you get too discouraged, know that you have several options available to you.

One of those options is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the process of raising small amounts of money from a large amount of people- this can be with the help of friends and family as well as people you don’t know. If you approach it correctly, attracting crowdfunding investors can be just what you need to get your business up and running, as long as you’re careful.

Now, the safest way to go about something that has potential legal implications is to know exactly what is allowed and what isn’t. Law enforcement has never taken “I didn’t know I was doing something wrong!” as a valid excuse.

So what should I steer clear of when crowdfunding? 

Promising Ownership

According to Biz Journals, a crowd funder may receive a reward for their donation once the company is up and running, but they cannot claim any ownership or financial gain in the business. For example, would-be authors can promise crowd fund investors copies of their signed books or acknowledgements for donations, but business owners can’t exchange equity for investments.

If you want to give away equity in exchange for funds, you need to work with accredited investors—people who make over $200,000 and have over $1 million in assets.

Forgetting about Taxes

The funds you get from your crowdfunding efforts are considered taxable income. Don’t forget that you must follow the federal and state tax laws you are subject to. If you plan to go the crowdfunding route, calculate taxes into your financial goals.

Breaking Promises

The typical crowdfunding effort is set up in a way that the person asking for funding promises rewards (not equity) to people who invest. Some crowdfunding sites use an all-or-nothing system where if a person reaches their goal, they keep the funding and must follow through on their promises. If they don’t reach their goal, the money goes back to the investors.

If you reach your goal and fail to follow through with your promised incentives, you could be considered in breach of contract. Unless you want to face a class-action lawsuit, follow through on any promises made during the crowdfunding process.

Where should I look for funding?

If you want to start a company or dive into a project that needs funding, sites like KickStarter or IndieGogo are useful mediums for making money. These have been especially great resources for artistic projects, such as publishing a book, starting a food truck, creating an art exhibit, or designing a new product.

Are there any other rules to keep in mind?

Crowdfunding is subject to rules placed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act- these rules are under constant discussion. As seen on Forbes, here are the rules you must follow if you plan on utilizing crowdfunding for your startup:

  • You can only accept up to $1 million dollars per 12-month period through crowdfunding.
  • If you are starting an investment company or a public-reporting company, you cannot use crowdfunding.
  • Crowdfund investors are only allowed to give a certain amount of money during a 12-month period. For investors who make over $100,000/yr., they can only give 10% of their income or net worth. For those who make less than $100,000/yr., they can only give up to 5% of their income (or up to $2,000, depending on which is greater).
  • You can only find crowdfunding through registered broker-dealers or “funding portals.”
  • You cannot advertise except to direct potential investors to your broker or funding portal.
  • If you complete a crowdfunding crowd, make sure you file the correct reports with the SEC.

The laws surrounding crowdfunding and business startups are complicated. To be absolutely sure you don’t cross any legal lines, talk to a lawyer who works with business law.

Originally from San Jose, California, Erika Remmington is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley in linguistics with a minor in business administration. She enjoys spending her time with her husband and 18 month old daughter. She also enjoys rock climbing and outdoor activities. Legal information from this article was provided by Kitchen Simeson Belliveau Llp.

CRM Solutions and Your Business: A Story Retold

CRM Solutions and Your Business: A Story RetoldWhat does CRM mean anyway? Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is essentially a system that enables businesses to manage data and information pertaining to clients. The aim is to increase sales and offer clients a better service and this goal is achieved by storing information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities in a central database so that it is easily accessible by all members of the company, especially sales and customer service reps.

But isn’t CRM only available for the use of large firms? Not at all. Not only can small firms afford CRM solutions, but they can also easily integrate them with their existing operations (customer service, sales, and marketing) too. Once customer relationships start to improve, you will automatically generate a greater ROI in the process.

If your small business is ready to take on CRM, read on to find out which tools are the best bet for your business.

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ABCs of Small Business Industry: B is for Business Services

This week we are looking at an industry very near and dear to MyCorporation – Business Services! This is a fairly broad industry, but essentially companies in it help other businesses. That could mean filing paperwork, providing tech support, processing data… the list goes on and on. Businesses helping businesses – what could be better? If you’re considering forming your own company in the business services industry, we’re here to help you out!

business services

Where do you start?

Since business services is such a broad category, it’s kind of hard to answer this question. At the very least you need a ‘Doing Business As‘ name, and should consider filing for an Employer Identification Number. You’ll also need to have all your permits and licenses in order. Unfortunately the ones you need really depend on what other industries you fall into. A tech support company, for example, would need different permits and licenses than a remote office administrator service.

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