When Harley-Davidson domestic sales began to slow to an idle, employees of RK Stratman Inc. of Wentzville knew they had to rev things up. They turned to University of Missouri Extension for help.
Stratman, one of the original 12 Harley licensees, produces more than four million T-shirts annually for the motorcycle giant's dealers. With the help of specialists from MU Extension's Small Business & Technology Development Centers (SBTDC), the company has been able to roll into the growing international market.
"According to the Small Business Administration, 97 percent of all U.S. exporters are small businesses, and 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States," said Larry Dill, state director of international trade for Missouri's SBTDCs. "This represents an enormous opportunity for small firms."
Dill and MU Extension Camden County SBTDC specialist Jackie Rasmussen have worked with the Stratman staff and SBTDC partners, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, SBA export programs and the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED).
Rasmussen and Dill steered the company into MO STEP=UP, an SBA-funded program administered by the DED's International Trade and Investment Office that helps defray the costs of foreign sales trips, trade shows, translation services and other exporting expenditures. That was something in which Stratman could see immediate benefit.
Sharon Paulsell had lost something.
And it wasn't something easily lost.
But amid the dozens of others just like it in the same location, it was nearly impossible to spot.
Sharon Paulsell had lost a wheelchair. As she gazed across the white granite landscape of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., suddenly all she saw was wheelchairs. In them sat aging military veterans from three different states who had come to the Memorial as part of the national Honor Flight program, which transports WWII veterans to the nation's capital for a special day of recognition.
As logistics chief of Central Missouri Honor Flight (CMHF), Sharon had to help ensure that all of the 35 wheelchairs the central Missouri group traveled with made it back to the tour buses at each stop. Now she was one short. The longer she looked, the more frustrated she became. Knowing the importance of keeping the central Missouri group on a tight schedule, Sharon re-boarded the bus. But before the day was done, she had an idea (and she had reclaimed the errant wheelchair, which had inadvertently been loaded by another Honor Flight group stopping at the same locations throughout the day).
Back in Columbia, Sharon began to design an easily applied and removed wheelchair back cover and soon had enough covers constructed to clearly mark all of the wheelchairs on the next CMHF mission. Bright blue, with the CMHF logo and the words WWII Veteran across the top, the well-traveled wheelchairs were easy to spot in the crowd. The look not only unified the group, it did something else no one had anticipated.
Even before Sharon adopted the slogan, "Start a conversation with the world," that is exactly what was happening to the elderly veterans seated in the chairs throughout the trip. Suddenly, other travelers and tourists were approaching the veterans enthusiastically, thanking them for their service, asking where they were from and what they thought of the Honor Flight experience. The Honor Flight volunteers traveling with the veterans noticed they sat a bit taller in the wheelchairs. Tourists started asking about the Honor Flight program and how they could get involved in their local communities. And other Honor Flight groups were noticing the covers and realizing what a wonderful logistical and marketing advantage they presented.
Chris Bouchard has been named state director of MU Extension's Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers. Interim director since 2009, Bouchard succeeds Max Summers, who accepted a three-year special projects assignment with MU Extension.
"I am delighted that Chris has accepted this pivotal position," writes Steve Devlin, director of the MU Extension Business Development Program, which hosts the MO SBTDC. "His years of experience as a small business owner and in the SBTDC will serve our organization well as we work to grow and improve our services to the state of Missouri."
Bouchard brings a unique background and perspective to the MO SBTDC. He holds a bachelor's degree in geology from MU and an MBA from Central Michigan University. In a long and distinguished career, Bouchard has also owned and operated two businesses; was an aircraft commander, instructor pilot and comptroller in the U.S. Air Force; and served as overseer for the Missouri Quality Award, administered by the Excellence in Missouri Foundation, among other positions.
MO SBTDC has centers statewide. Find a center near you.
Want to help a veteran and get a potentially large tax deduction?
The American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012 extends the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring certain workers, including veterans, through Dec. 31, 2013.
The program, called VOW to Hire Heroes Act, was designed in 2011 to help veterans transition to a civilian economy. ATRA also extends tax credits for certain other groups.
To claim the credit, employers must obtain certification that an individual is a veteran (or member of another targeted group) by filing Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, not the IRS, within 28 days after the applicant begins work. Employers should contact the Missouri Division of Workforce Development with questions.
For more information on prescreening, certification and other information go to irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Expanded-Work-Opportunity-Tax-Credit-Available-for-Hiring-Qualified-Veterans. For more on Form 8850, go to .irs.gov/uac/Form-8850,-Pre-Screening-Notice-and-Certification-Request-for-the-Work-Opportunity-Credit.
Larry Dill appointed to North American Small Business International Trade Educators board of governors
Larry Dill, state director of the MO SBTDC's International Trade Services based in the St. Louis Regional SBTDC, has been appointed to the North American Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE) board of governors.
"This is a great honor for Larry and for the MO SBTDC," said Steve Devlin, director of the MU Extension Business Development Program, which hosts the MO SBTDC. "NASBITE is a leading organization in educating small businesses in the constantly changing complexities of global business, and I'm confident Larry will go above and beyond in engaging more Missouri companies in international trade."
NASBITE's mission is to advance global business practice, education and training through coordination and administration of the Certified Global Business Professional credential; exchange information and resources among global business education and assistance professionals; and offer professional development for those engaged in global business education and assistance.
The MO SBTDC International Trade Services works closely with several partner organizations to increase Missouri small business exports. This powerful coalition includes the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Small Business Administration export programs, the Missouri Department of Economic Development Office of International Trade and Investment, the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the World Trade Centers in Kansas City and St. Louis and other entities.
For more information on how the MO SBTDC can assist your company with international trade and other small business management issues, visit missouribusiness.net/sbtdc.
Twenty St. Louis metro-area firms have won $50,000 Arch Grants, including four start-up companies that received assistance from the St. Louis Regional SBTDC. These start-ups vary from the rock-solid (literally) to a biotech and a marketing firm. In addition, Luis Ortiz, St. Louis SBTDC technology development and commercialization specialist, was a grant judge.
"I am thrilled these four companies have won these funds to help them advance their business," said Kevin Wilson, director of the St. Louis Regional SBTDC. "Arch Grants are unique in the country. The Arch Grant organization takes no equity in the companies they award funding to, and in the space of 12 months will have brought 35 startups to St. Louis. It's exciting to see our entrepreneurial culture growing, thriving and being recognized by awards like this."
The start-ups are:
- EternoGen, a biotech firm that designs and manufactures collagen for therapeutic applications. EternoGen, based in Columbia with an office in St. Louis, also recently closed on more than $1 million in financing. The firm has been an MO SBTDC client since 2009.
- LipoSpectrum, LLC, which has licensed a patented lipid analysis technology from Washington University Medical School to provide detailed molecular level lipid analysis of human blood and tissue samples. This analysis can provide early diagnosis of such diseases as diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease. LipoSpectrum has already identified a few lipid biomarkers. LipoSpectrum has been a client since 2008.
- U.S. Drilling Products, that manufacture and sell a patented directional underground boring bit to utility contractors laying communication lines on new construction sites. These bits bore through solid rock, enable users to improve worker productivity and take less time to complete a boring job. The process is environmentally friendly, too.
- RoverTown, an innovative mobile marketing firm targeting university communities. RoverTown recently moved from Carbondale, Ill., to St. Louis to join St. Louis' entrepreneurial culture.
The St. Louis Regional SBTDC has established itself in the heart of the region's start-up culture. The office is located in the Regional Entrepreneur Exchange — T-REx — a business incubator in downtown St. Louis.
"Come see us!" urges Wilson. "Don't let the giant inflatable dinosaur scare you."
Go to missouribusiness.net/sbtdc/centers.asp#ec for a complete listing of all MO SBTDCs in the St. Louis metro area.
For more information on Arch Grants, visit archgrants.org.
Did you know that air conditioning can comprise nearly half of all commercial electricity use in the summer? Talk about scorching energy bills! To help you save money, we have developed a list of the 10 best ways to keep your business cooling costs low in the summer heat.
Inside shading can reduce solar heat gain by 20 to 70 percent. Avoid black shades, and be sure to choose lighter-colored shades that will deflect the most heat. If possible, invest in exterior shading, which can repel 95 percent of the direct solar gain. Businesses with lots of windows facing the afternoon sun can expect significant air conditioning savings from exterior shading.
While a vital part of any heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system, vents are easily overlooked. Keep vents unobstructed to increase air circulation. Also consider closing vents in seldom-used spaces to reduce air conditioning costs.
Esri Business Analyst
Ready to put your business on the map?
Government agencies use it for city planning, traffic management and disaster relief. Housing organizations and developers use it to develop feasibility studies for new developments. And multinational corporations use it to track product success or failure and plan new international markets.
Now you can use this professional tool to find new markets, too.
It's called Esri Business Analyst, it uses advanced geographic information systems (GIS) and it's one of the most powerful weapons in the MO SBTDC business arsenal.
Danny Lobina, director of the Moberly Area Community College SBTDC, says he recommends it to every client. Some people think they're too small or in the wrong industry to benefit from GIS; that's not so, he says.
"Industry is not an indicator of who should use it," Lobina says. "A retailer, for example, can use it to understand her customers better; a brewery, to map out convenience stores, restaurants and delivery routes; or a business that services hospitals, to map out health care facilities. The possibilities are almost endless."
A skilled counselor like Lobina first draws a map that encompasses a defined trade area, which can be as large as multi-state or as small as certain city neighborhoods. He then overlays this map with up to 300 parameters ranging from age, race and gender to business locations, construction employment, the number of people dining in or dining out, average amount spent on dining out, demographic and income data, expenditure by household, shopping centers, traffic counts and much more.
Sounds overly complex? You're probably already mapping, either with an app like Google Earth or in your head. Esri Business Analyst just adds more reliable customer data to your business' map.
"When you understand your customers and their buying habits, you better understand your business," says Lobina. "It helps you make better business decisions." He adds Esri can be a great client prospecting tool, literally creating a roadmap to new markets.
To see how Esri Business Analyst can make out your future, contact an SBTDC near you.
Remember, a new recruit is about more than just getting a warm body in front of a register. Hiring employees is about finding someone good enough to represent your business. Don't be lured into making reckless hiring decisions in your haste to save time. These new hires may be the first and only face new customers and seasonal shoppers see, and hiring dependable seasonal staff can make it easier to fill positions in the future, whether you need to cover for an employee on maternity leave or need help for the upcoming holiday season.
1) Write a great job ad. Make it clear that the position you are hiring for is a seasonal position. Many people, including stay-at-home moms, seniors and students are looking to make extra money but aren't looking for full-time work.
The copy for any job ad, whether it's seasonal or not, should explain the essential functions of the job. Being too vague about the skills required for the position can generate a lot of extra applications from people not qualified to do the work. Save yourself time and be thorough.
If possible, give potential candidates some idea how long the temporary position will last and how many hours they can expect to get each week. If you already know what hours you need to fill, put that information in the ad.
Looking for summer marketing ideas? Whether it's a busy or quiet time for your business, here are some things you can do to take advantage of the summer months.
1) Take your business into the fresh air. Don't wait for customers to come to you. Look for ways to get in front of them. Whether you run a retail store, restaurant or provide a service to customers, consider:
- Hosting a cookout. Invite customers past and present to join your business for a summer celebration. Use your parking lot or a public park and plan on catering it yourself — a portable grill, hot dogs, hamburgers, salad and cold drinks are fine. Look for ways to make this worthwhile for folks to want to join, too, by hiring a magician, renting a moon bounce or giving away prizes. Don't forget to offer incentives (demos or special offers) to those who attend so that they have a good reason to keep frequenting your business over the summer.
- Take part in local markets, events and fairs. For most communities, summer means outdoor fairs, festivals and other events. Research events you could join, find the right match for your business and then make it happen. What better way to attract new customers?
- Take your food business on the road. If you are in the food business, taking a concession stand on the road is a great way to earn money and give new customers a taste of what you've got to offer at your restaurant or store.
The MO SBTDC and MO PTAC offer a variety of outstanding educational opportunities throughout the year. Here are highlights of upcoming events.
Don't miss the 2013 National Veterans Small Business Conference, the premier annual event for veterans to connect directly with procurement decision makers and potential partners, build capacity and grow their businesses, to be held August 6-8 in America's Center Convention Complex, 701 Convention Plaza, downtown St. Louis.
This event, co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, can help veteran business people get an edge on the competition in the crucial government contracting industry. No other event provides such an opportunity to be up close and personal with hundreds of government and commercial procurement decision makers, and participants can choose from more than 325 sessions where government and commercial buyers outline their procurement requirements for 2014 and 2015.
Last year, 77 percent of surveyed participants connected with procurement decision makers from federal agencies and commercial partners, according to the organization. To register or for more information, go to nationalveteransconference.com or email email@example.com.
The 16th annual Missouri Recycling Association Conference will be held September 16-18 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, Jefferson City. This intensive three-day educational conference offers concurrent sessions on recycling and composting, social marketing, green business practices, storm debris management, construction and debris, economics of recycling, legislative topics and more.
Keynote speaker will be "rock star of sustainability" Dr. Neil Seldman. The conference will also feature a behind-the-scenes Lincoln University sustainability tour and a tour of the former Missouri State Penitentiary, which was recycled from a federal facility into an historical site; some of the penitentiary's building materials were also recycled to form the foundation for the adjacent Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Lewis and Clark building, the first LEED platinum government building in the country. To register or for more information, go to MORAConference.org.
The Women's Leadership Conference will be held at Missouri State Southern University's Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, 405 North Jefferson Avenue in Joplin, on Thursday, Sept. 19. Keynote speaker will be the dynamic Jennifer Yazell of Golden Egg Communications. For more information, go to mssutraining.com.
Don't miss the fourth annual Missouri Technology Expo, to be held at the Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri in Columbia, on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Speakers include Han Chen, co-founder and managing director of Kapyon Ventures, LLC, a San-Diego based technology incubation firm, which has successfully spun out three portfolio companies as well as MO SBTDC client and success story Toby Rush, CEO of EyeVerify and Karl Kochendorfer, CEO, MedSocket, co-presenting on the next big thing. Rush and EyeVerify pioneered ultra-secure "eyeprinting" via mobile devices; MedSocket is a search tool that aggregates medical information databases for care providers. This dynamic event also includes the Tiger Cage, at which early-stage technology representatives may pitch their technologies and the dedication of the new University of Missouri Research Commons. This Expo can help you establish key relationships with potential commercial partners, academia and industry partners. To register or for more information go to motechexpo.missouri.edu/index.php.
Don't miss the six-module Construction Business Management course if you're in the construction industry and want to develop a plan for growing your company. In this course, to be held at 4747 Troost, Room 114, Kansas City, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., you will be an active participant expected to develop your own business strategy. Facilitators are knowledgeable entrepreneur-practitioners attuned to the issues that influence the decisions you make about your company, and you'll be able to access one-on-one counselor input long after the courses are over. Dinner is provided. Class size is limited to 30; cost is $75. Session is first of six. For more information, contact Carmen DeHart, University of Missouri-Kansas City SBTDC, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-235-6428. Register online.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City's (UMKC) Henry W. Bloch School of Management, 5110 Cherry Street, Kansas City, will host the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers' annual conference, which gathers university-based entrepreneurship centers to share best practices on how to create entrepreneurial experiences, from Thursday Oct. 24 to Saturday, Oct. 26. The conference site has been called "the most entrepreneurial corner on earth," with UMKC, the Kauffman Foundation, Midwest Research Institute and Stowers Institute for Medical Research located nearby. Attendees must be employed at a school that is a member of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers; if your school is not a member, you may pay annual membership dues through conference registration. Conference fee is $425 until Sept. 1, $525 after. For more information or to register, go to gcec2013.com.
Accredited Member of the ASBDC
America's Small Business Development Centers
Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
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